Saturday, June 9, 2012

Changes ahead for land-use planning in New Jersey

Land-use planning in a complicated business in New Jersey--a highly urbanized state with overlapping governmental units, big-league politics, and perpetual development vs. environmental tensions.

The planning process involves municipalities, counties, sewerage authorities, professional planners, consultants, attorneys and environmental organizations.

Representatives from all of those sectors filed into an auditorium yesterday morning at the College of New Jersey to learn, from a panel of experts assembled by PlanSmart NJ, about significant changes coming soon for Water Quality Management Planning. 

Michele Siekerka, Esq., Assistant Commissioner, Economic Growth and Green Energy at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection provided a detailed but quick-paced summary of how the state's almost-completed Strategic Plan will seek to balance new development with environmental protection.

The plan, she said, will employ an updated mapping of existing development and infrastructure to identify regional clusters to which future growth will be directed. Governor Christie, she noted, has directed all affected state agencies to eliminate conflicting regulations that block such growth. 
Siekerka acknowledged that, even within a single agency like the NJDEP, conflicting rules can be encountered. She said her agency is working to 'de-conflict' department 'silos.'

As the state develops its plan to guide overall development in New Jersey, each of its 21 counties also are working to meet a July 15 deadline to submit Water Quality Management Plans to the NJDEP that include maps of future sewer service areas.  

Raymond Ferrara, PhD., a principal at of Omni Environmental, led the audience through a history of water quality management in New Jersey stretching back to 1977.  He said that the cost and complexity of developing the plans were responsible for numerous missed deadlines in the past.

After the administration of Gov. Chris Christie arrived on the scene in January of 2010, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin granted a deadline extension to April 7, 2011. The state Legislature subsequently gave the counties additional time, extending the cutoff to July 15, 2012. 
Roughly half of all counties now have submitted their plans and the DEP expects all counties to meet next month's deadline.

Tim Dillingham
, Executive Director of the American Littoral Society, raised concerns of the environmental community as the state begins to place a heavier emphasis on economic growth. 

David Fisher
, PP/AICP, Vice President of Governmental Affairs at K. Hovnanian Homes, discussed problems that home builders can encounter with county water quality management plans.

Neil Yoskin, Esq.a partner at 
Sokol Behot and Fiorenzoadded the perspective of environmental attorneys who represent business owners seeking to develop property in the state.

the discussion, EnviroPolitics caught up with PlanSmart NJ’s Executive Director, Lucy Vandenberg and her panelists for the video interviews above. Neil Yoskin managed to escape the premises before we could snare him. Sorry, Neil.
Note: PlanSmart NJ will post speaker slides from the event on its website next week. 

Have an opinion on the State Strategic Plan or NJDEP's Water Quality Management Plan? Use the box below. Signed submissions appreciated. Anonymous comments also accepted.

Related News:

Bipartisan legislation on water quality management plans are helping N.J.

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