A controversial Bordentown warehouse has its first tenant.

As Community News reported last month, Modell’s is set to lease the new Matrix Development Group facility at the intersection of Georgetown Road and Old York Road. The sporting goods company will house its logistics and distributions operations at the site, transferring from its previous headquarters based in New York.

Matrix first approached Bordentown Township about building a warehouse on the plot in 2016. The plan was approved the following year, and construction at the site is ongoing. The township said in a press release that Modell’s will lease approximately 312,000 square feet of space, about 55 percent of the total distribution center. The other tenant or tenants have not yet been named.

Residents, especially those at the nearby Clifton Mill housing development, were wary from the star, however.

Many preferred the original tract of farmland and worried that construction noise, truck traffic, fumes and emissions would impact their quality of life. The portion of the property that was not designated as proposed farmland, though, had been zoned for development since at least the early 1990s.

Bordentown Township Mayor Stephen Benowitz addressed those traffic concerns, saying that Modell’s confirmed that their tractor trailers will travel down Old York Road rather than Georgetown Road to enter and exit the facility.

“We are very pleased that Modell’s is coming to the township and that they are committed to being good neighbors,” Benowtiz said. “They recognized the potential traffic issues, and quickly and voluntarily offered to mandate all their tractor trailers stay off Georgetown Road.”

Benowitz said he believes the agreement is a positive outcome for the residents living on Georgetown Road and for the communities that are serviced by the road.

“The township will continue to work with the developer and all current and future tenants to ensure these safety measures are enforced,” he said. “We are also still advocating for further truck restrictions and traffic calming measures on Georgetown Road through all federal, state, and local channels.”

A township press release stated that officials were “vocal” about truck routes during the approval process but could not mandate any restrictions because both Georgetown Road and Old York Road both fall under Burlington County jurisdiction.

The warehouse was initially proposed in 2015, when Matrix first approached the township about constructing a facility on the property.

It came not long after tensions between Robbinsville Township and Amazon escalated that same year—truck and employee traffic to and from the warehouse, also developed by Matrix, rose dramatically during the holiday season, causing levels of rush hour gridlock that residents hadn’t seen before.

Residents were anxious, gathering on Facebook and at township committee and planning board meetings. Some were concerned about quality of life changes, while others, like Barbi-Ann Nurko, were worried about their livelihood.

Nurko, who has owned nearby Old York Stables since 2003, told the Current in 2016 that she was afraid for her horses.

“Horses are a fleeing animal,” she said. “If they get spooked, they can run through fences. That’s a big concern. God forbid a tractor trailer scares somebody while they were riding. [The developer] doesn’t seem to care too much.”

Other residents, like John Dourgarian of Williamsburg Village, continue to speak out against the development.

Dourgarian said dump trucks and tractor trailers traveled up and down Georgetown Road over the summer while the warehouse was still under construction, and he expressed concerns for children whose school buses stop on the road.

Dourgarian said he would have liked to have seen the township pursue Greenacres Funding for the tract.

“Approval of this project was the utter failure of township officials to protect the safety of Bordentown residents,” Dourgarian said.