USDA Photo by Lance Cheung. Original public domain image from Flickr

By Myara Gomez | The Signal

This story was produced in collaboration with The Signal (TCNJ) and CivicStory as part of the Ecology-Justice Reporting Fellowship.

As the Covid pandemic confined the world’s population to their homes, consumer shopping habits changed. Online shopping saw a dramatic rise, offering customers stuck at home fast and easy delivery in just a few days. Brick-and-mortar stores suffered without usual foot traffic, effectively replaced by warehouses, trucks, and shipping containers. But if sheltered-in-place shoppers appreciated their goods, those along the delivery route were less enthusiastic. This is especially true in Florence Township, where residents and township officials are pushing back against increased traffic, pollution, and wildlife displacement. 

Located in Burlington County, Florence is uniquely positioned to bear the brunt of the dramatic growth of shipping and e-commerce. Located near Route 130, I-295, and I-95, the township allows for easy access to a number of shipping routes. And companies are taking notice. In 2015, there were only seven warehouses in Florence; that total is now 16. One of those companies is Cream-O-Land, which is headquartered in Florence. According to their Production Supervisor Joseph Jacobs, it’s all about location. “I mean, this whole area is becoming all warehouses. It’s just because of the proximity to Route 130, which is close to the I-95 corridor, a major shipping route not just in the U.S. but the world.” 

This growth is not unique to Florence. Per The United States Census Bureau, transportation and warehousing had the largest rate of employment growth even before the pandemic, increasing by 7.5%—or 5,650,486 truck registrations—from 2018 to 2019. This growth is largely in drivers; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national employment estimate for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers alone was approximately 2,044,400 in May 2023. In New Jersey, there were 52,580 heavy and tractor-trailer drivers employed in May 2023, up from 49,730 the previous year. And this is just for large trucks; these figures exclude light duty trucks, driver/sales workers, and other transportation and warehousing roles. 

For Florence residents, though, trucks aren’t the only issue. “When people think about traffic, they think trucks. But the intensity of the traffic actually comes out of the employment,” said Florence Township Administrator Thomas Sahol. He explained that the town’s traffic is not typically rows of trucks, but cars of employees going in and out of the warehouses. 

Whether from cars or trucks, one thing is certain: these vehicles are damaging the environment. Large trucks release particulate matter and nitrogen oxides (a gaseous mixture of nitrogen and oxygen), which can have serious respiratory implications—like asthma—for sensitive groups such as young children and the elderly. These vehicles also emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and greenhouse gasses—pollutants that restrict our flow of oxygen and have been linked to certain cancers, like lung cancer. And according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “tailpipe emissions from cars, trucks and buses account for over one-fifth of the United States total global warming pollution.” 

Compounding the issue is that these trucks aren’t just transporting goods—they’re idling as shipments are loaded and unloaded. “I know a lot of our trucks are left idling even at any stop and just in traffic, but at this point it’s still a part of the business and something we can’t get rid of until electric vehicles reach a point where they can be used on a mass level,” said Jacobs.

Residents have also seen more wildlife roaming the streets, something that was never seen before. Florence resident Jacob Estelow said that he has seen deer, foxes, possums, and raccoons. He blames the displacement of these animals on the construction of these warehouse sites. “I remember when they first knocked down all the trees it was just open field, like all brown because of the dirt, and it was disheartening,” said Estelow. 

He began to notice the uptick in warehouses around 2019, there were two warehouses built right behind homes on Woodlawn Avenue. Estelow mentioned a large gray wall that was placed between the homes and the warehouse. Ever since then, he said, green spaces were replaced by gray ones.

Estelow is hardly alone in his feelings. Citizens have taken notice, voicing their concerns in town halls and on a Facebook community page, where conversations focus on trucks, traffic, and pollution. A unified response to the issue is forming—enough to get the mayor’s attention. Florence Mayor Kristan Marter has vowed to fix the warehouse issue, bringing the dialogue from Facebook to town council meetings. 

According to the minutes from a June 5 meeting, Marter recently attended an event called “30 Mayors/30 Developers,” hosted by Dare Business Network. There, she had the opportunity to talk with several developers, who stated that they were interested in bringing restaurants and retail spaces into Florence, rather than warehouses. There is a planned follow-up meeting with contacts to bring in business that would “at least benefit the residents with resources.” 

It remains to be seen whether this solution will help or hurt traffic concerns in Florence—but it demonstrates residents’ clear intention to move away from warehouse shipping and toward community spaces. Said Sahol, “Florence township is a very unique community. Residents here are hardworking, honest people who want only for the success of the community and the good for their neighbors.”



Myara Gomez is a junior at The College of New Jersey. She is a staff writer for The Signal (TCNJ) and a CivicStory Reporting FellowThis story was produced in collaboration with The Signal and CivicStory as part of the Ecology-Justice Reporting Fellowship.


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