Opponents of urban density, please take note.
May 24, 2003
New Jersey Is Running Out of Open Land It Can Build on
By LAURA MANSNERUS
GREENWICH TOWNSHIP, N.J. — New Jersey, far more densely populated than any other state — more crowded than Japan or India, for that matter — is on course for another distinction: it will be the first state, land-use experts say, to exhaust its supply of land available for development.
The prospect of running out of open space to build on, a phenomenon that planners call buildout, is at the heart of Gov. James E. McGreevey's well-publicized campaign against sprawl. In poll after poll, voters in this most suburban of states say they hate what they see, and elected officials on all levels have taken note.
Roughly two million of New Jersey's five million acres are developed, and a little over one million are protected by various levels of government. The state has promised to acquire or preserve enough land, including farmland, to bring the number of protected acres to two million by 2009. Some of the rest is unsuitable for development, leaving less than a million acres to be fought over. Since those estimates were made a few years ago, some of those acres have surely been developed.
The pace of suburban development is a powerful issue in many other states after a 10-year onslaught of building, but the political and economic tensions are especially raw here, where more people are scrambling over less open space. Builders accuse the governor of thwarting the American dream, environmentalists say builders will kill agriculture, and many towns try to avoid the costs of growth, like developing infrastructure and building schools, by zoning out housing that would bring in children.
The pattern in New Jersey is the very definition of sprawl: land consumption is increasing faster than the population is growing. As in other parts of the country, land is consumed three to four times faster than the population grows. "We're taking bigger bites with each wave of development," said Barbara Lawrence, the director of New Jersey Future, a land-use planning organization.
Some project that buildout will occur within 20 years, while New Jersey's population of 8.4 million is expected to grow by 1 million in that period, but other estimates are that buildout could take many more decades. The timing depends on population and employment growth, which can swerve wildly with the economy. Government could hasten buildout by putting more land off limits to development through environmental controls.
The debate now under way will determine whether the population will continue to spread across the landscape or become more concentrated in the cities and older suburbs. It will determine, in short, what a built-out state looks like.
New Jersey officials do not know how much land has been consumed since the last statewide land surveys, taken in the mid-1990's. Estimates range from 16,000 acres to more than 40,000 acres a year. Mr. McGreevey says the state is losing 50 acres a day to development, a figure that other state officials describe as conservative.
But the rate of consumption may have increased in the late 1990's, many land-use experts say, in a pattern entrenched across the nation. American appetites for space have put ever-smaller families onto ever-larger lots.
"In the '50's and '60's, a quarter of an acre was a lot, and half an acre was huge," said James W. Hughes, the dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers. "Now it's one acre, three acres, five acres."
That change, Mr. Hughes said, portends self-perpetuating congestion. Each new resident, for example, adds 1.2 vehicles. "When you move into a McMansion you need three cars to fill your three-car garage," Mr. Hughes said, "and a big S.U.V. for the two snow days per year."
Each new resident spurs more commercial development, too. Since 1980, Mr. Hughes notes, retail space per capita has doubled and office space per capita has increased sixfold.
In northwestern New Jersey, Greenwich Township, bordering the Delaware River in the southern lobe of Warren County, was transformed by the completion of Interstate 78 and the office parks that came with it across the state from Newark. To look at the landscape here — say, from the road between the new Home Depot and the new Lowe's — is to see how New Jersey could quickly run out of real estate.
Splaying east and west on former farm fields are about 800 of the new houses that brought the population of Greenwich Township to 4,365 in 2000 from 1,899 in 1990, a 130 percent increase. A few miles north, off Route 57, big lumber skeletons are rising at the Grande at Scotts Mountain, a subdivision where the lots average 3.4 acres.
"This is supposed to be a scenic highway, but it's all for sale," said Mike King, the chairman of a civic group that is promoting development in the sagging town of Phillipsburg, near Greenwich Township, and is fighting it in the outlying townships.
Mr. McGreevey inherited a program that spends about $200 million a year to buy open space and preserve farmland, which he rolled into a bigger "smart growth" campaign to steer development to population centers, mostly by making it difficult elsewhere. He issued an edict last month to restrict building near 15 reservoirs, rivers and streams, halting several projects just days from construction, and state officials are working on what they call "the big map," delineating areas where they will impose restrictions on growth.
As for the governor, Mr. King said, "he's thinking all those right things, but it's later than he seems to realize."
Developers say they have been forced into rural areas as older suburbs, already built out, become prohibitively expensive. Even then, "we are not able to meet demand," said Joanne Harkins, the director of land use and planning for the New Jersey Builders Association. "When they open a new development we have waiting lists. Virtually everything is sold before it's built."
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 39 percent of New Jersey's land area was developed as of 1997, while the next on the list were far behind: Massachusetts and Rhode Island at 30 percent and Connecticut at 29 percent.
The department found that about 42,500 acres a year were developed from 1992 to 1997, the latest year for which figures were available. A 1995 survey by the state Department of Environmental Protection found a much lower rate of development, 16,000 to 18,000 acres a year, largely because it did not count open space attached to new buildings, like a wooded campus surrounding an office cluster, as developed.
The state is awaiting results of a new aerial survey and has compiled information from local governments, but those will not show thousands of projects that are in the pipeline.
Bradley M. Campbell, the state commissioner of environmental protection, said that when the aerial photographs are analyzed, "there's every reason to believe the rate will be higher" than the governor's estimate of 50 acres a day lost to development.
First, Mr. Campbell said, the recent trend — "a very grim pattern" — has been accelerating land consumption. Second, he said, rapid economic expansion occurred in the late 1990's. "Third," he said, "there's been no real effort to strengthen regulatory controls on development" until recently.
"What's as troubling as the pace of loss is the location," he added. About 40 percent of new development, he said, is in areas the state classifies as rural or environmentally sensitive.
Mr. Hughes at Rutgers is doubtful that one million new residents will materialize by 2020. In a state that has no room left for new highways, he said, development is self-limiting. "As congestion gets worse, and it's going to get worse, and as it becomes expensive, these inhibitors to growth are going to kick in."
But Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, estimates that "we'll hit buildout within 20 years" in all but Cumberland and Salem Counties, in the far south of the state.
"There could be some pieces left," Mr. Tittel said, "but they would be environmentally sensitive or just junk property."
Environmental regulation is the governor's main means of curbing development, since the guidelines in the State Development and Redevelopment Plan are voluntary. "The time you reach buildout depends on what kind of regulatory controls you have to protect water and wildlife," Mr. Campbell said. "If the right safeguards are in place, buildout may be sooner rather than later."
Developers, while not disputing that, say the administration's anti-growth measures threaten the housing that the state most needs. "When Mr. Campbell's done, there will be no place outside the ghettos for middle-income and low-income New Jerseyans," said Patrick J. O'Keefe, the chief executive of the builders association.
Joseph J. Maraziti Jr., a former chairman of the State Planning Commission, said that builders could see that as a new business model: redeveloping cities instead of expanding the suburbs. "The consensus is like none I've ever seen about revitalizing our cities."
But he added, "It's in our genes as a country that began as a colony. You don't get it out of your system fast — you should tame the land and expand. There's a lot of momentum behind the idea that goes back 300 years. It doesn't stop because of some speeches and legislation."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
Opponents of urban density, please take note.
So much for spreading out to outer lands away from big cities for land, privacy, and safety reasons :biggrin:.
My brother lives in Hunterdon County, just 10 years ago the only thing out there were farms, woods, lovely rolling fields and vegetable stands. Now he is surrounded by giant houses on huge, huge lots. It's sad really - too few people gain from that kind of development.
It's sickening, really. This is one reason why these NIMBY's we have in the city are so corrosive. They're bitter that we even have row houses. If they could, they'd tear down all skyscrapers and systematically turn the city into an endless sea of one-family houses. I shudder to think how ecstatic they are when they hear about the spreading sea of houses across the metro area.
It's not just in North Jersey. We have the same sprawl eating away at the Hudson Valley, Long Island, and Southwest Connecticut. These NIMBY's must be jumping for joy. :angry:
(Edited by Agglomeration at 5:09 pm on May 29, 2003)
June 14, 2003
Bear Season, and the Living's Uneasy
By ROBERT HANLEY
WEST MILFORD, N.J., June 13 — Soon after their dog was attacked by a black bear here in 1999, Susan and Lee Kuchenreuther put up floodlights to illuminate their backyard at night. The mayor, Robert Moshman, tries to keep bears from raiding his garbage cans by storing meat scraps in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until garbage-collection day. And the elementary schools have started bear-alert and bear-safety programs and have asked neighbors to call if they see a bear headed toward a school.
"It's part of the culture up here," the school superintendent, Robert Gilmartin, said of those tactics and, more generally, life with bears in this sprawling, densely wooded town only about 35 miles northwest of Midtown Manhattan.
Over the last decade, bears have become almost as much of a fixture here as squirrels are in more developed parts of suburbia. They roam routinely through backyards and sometimes along the edges of ball fields and school playgrounds, occasionally attacking dogs and pet rabbits and frightening people. In fact, two of the most notorious recent encounters in the state occurred here: On May 23, a bear bit a resident on the wrist and bicep and dislocated his shoulder after he tackled it as it was mauling his dog. On June 5, another resident shot a growling bear that had climbed onto the deck outside his log cabin home.
Yet as state fish and game officials consider holding the state's first bear hunt in 33 years, opinion on the issue is sharply divided in this bear mecca, whose prevailing policy toward its burly guests is one of careful accommodation.
After years of wary coexistence with the animals, many of West Milford's 26,000 residents have adopted habits that other suburbanites might see as a bit quirky, even alien.
Some keep air horns, firecrackers, whistles, pots and pans and makeshift sirens close at hand to frighten off bears that linger too long in a yard. Mothers, worried about bears, walk children to the bus stop each morning and belong to telephone chains to alert school officials if a bear heads toward a school.
State wildlife officials, in lectures and brochures, preach their gospel of "bear-proofing" a home by feeding pets indoors and taking down bird feeders before bears emerge from hibernation. Many residents store garbage in their basements or put it in locked garages or sheds until the morning of their weekly collection.
Others here have erected chain-link fences to separate their yards from adjacent forests. The manager of the local pet supply store reported recently that she had received two orders for electric fencing.
Like police officers in other parts of bear country in northern New Jersey, patrolmen here are trained to fire noisemakers or shoot rubber buckshot pellets at bears that return too frequently to unsheltered garbage cans.
"You have to constantly be on guard," Mr. Kuchenreuther said. "We're all wary and cautious and very aware that something can happen any day, any week, any time."
The bears are common here, officials say, because about 85 percent of West Milford's land area of about 80 square miles is undeveloped, most of it forested state parkland or protected watershed land.
State fish and game officials contend there are far too many bears in the woods and towns of northwestern New Jersey and have proposed a six-day hunt in early December — the state's first since 1970 — that would be open to 10,000 hunters.
But not all officials here are anti-bear. The Passaic County Board of Freeholders unanimously approved a resolution on Wednesday strongly opposing a hunt, calling it inhumane and ultimately ineffective in controlling the state's growing bear population.
In 2000, the West Milford Town Council voted against a state proposal for a hunt and helped build an anti-hunt crusade that prompted state officials to cancel it. Whether the Council will vote against the new proposal is unclear now because its membership is changing on June 30.
Mayor Moshman, who will leave office then, said the town's sentiment was about evenly split now. The mayor, who grew up in Brooklyn and moved here in 1984, opposes a hunt.
"When I see a bear, I'm in awe," he said. "They're not trying to have human encounters. They just want to get the garbage. Some people here feel very protective about bears. And then we have others that freak out."
Charles Kaszner, an advertising executive who moved here 20 years ago, also opposes a hunt. Many days, he said, a female bear and three cubs pass along his backyard and sometimes stop to drink from his pool. "They're majestic animals," he said.
Bears often raid the Dumpsters at the two Dunkin' Donuts shops in town and make off with bags of discarded doughnuts and empty yeast and syrup containers, employees said. Recently, a seven-foot stockade fence was installed around the Dumpster at one store. But bears climb the fence and throw the bags they want over it, employees said.
Despite the mess the bears make, most employees do not favor a hunt, said Kathy Treible, manager of one of the stores. "I feel bad for the bears," she said. "They have no place to go. We keep building and building and building."
A supporter of a hunt, Joseph Heisler was recovering from surgery several months ago and fell asleep in his backyard. He said he was awakened by a bear sniffing him. "I screamed, and he took off," Mr. Heisler said. A hunt, he said, is the only way to reduce the number of bears. "There's really no other way of doing it."
Reflecting the division in town, the West Milford residents involved in the two most recent encounters disagree on the issue of a hunt.
Rob Skrypek, who was bitten while protecting his dog, needed 19 stitches for his wounds and said he fully supported a hunt. "I'll be the first guy on line," he said. "Bears are beautiful to watch walking through the woods, but as beautiful as they are, it's downright dangerous now."
Mr. Skrypek, 35, said the bear either broke through or climbed over a six-foot chain-link fence he had installed around his yard because his children, Ashley, 3, and John, 18 months, play there.
Kristine Flynn said her husband, Patrick, shot a male bear about 30 minutes after she frightened away a female that was attracted, perhaps, by the smell of baking pork chops.
"He was growling and he was drooling and he seemed agitated," she said, adding that she and her daughter, Samantha, 2, were terrified. The next morning, state rangers found the wounded bear in the woods near the Flynn home and killed it.
But the tale does not end there for the Flynns. Officials from the state's Environmental Protection Department said that Mr. Flynn had shot the 400-pound bear as it was retreating from the house at a range of about 45 feet. He received a summons for illegally shooting a bear and faces a fine of up to $300.
Mrs. Flynn said her husband shot the bear when it was only 10 feet away, adding that at a distance of 45 feet, the bear would have been down a slope and out of sight of the house. The Flynns, who favor trapping and relocating bears, intend to fight the summons.
"It's so unbelievable we got this summons," Mrs. Flynn said. "The whole thing is just crazy now."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
From the first article: *
"When Mr. Campbell's done, there will be no place outside the ghettos for middle-income and low-income New Jerseyans"
That's when gentrification begins. *There's been a lot of "urban renewal" in the past 40 years, obviously, but most of NJ's old urban centers a still quite forbidding to the mainstream middle-class American. *Hoboken, of course, is the most gentrified, with commuter colonies in Jersey City next on the list. *Newark, Camden, Paterson, Elizabeth and Trenton still have a long way to go. *Initiatives are underway (aren't they always) to capitalize on the excellent pre-existing transit infrastructure in these historic but frayed urban cores, and bring in more people. *It's going to be the last untapped real estate frontier in NJ. *
Lower income families better watch their rent. *All it takes is one feature in the real estate section of the NY Times, and it's all over.
September 19, 2003
Bears Root Through Garbage, Then Roil Politics
By ROBERT HANLEY
A bear in West Milford Township, N.J., where some encounters with bears have been uncomfortably close, including one in which a man was injured.
JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP, N.J., Sept. 17 — Outside the Town Hall here, a mother bear rummaged happily through the trash in a dark blue Dumpster tonight as two of her cubs sat on one of the lids.
Inside the hall, about a half hour later, the Town Council sorted through a thorny issue facing Jefferson and five neighboring towns in northwestern New Jersey: whether to approve a hunt in December aimed at reducing an estimated population of 1,350 to 3,300 black bears roaming the wooded hills and growing subdivisions in this rural area.
In the end, after police officers shooed the bears away as they do most evenings, the Council voted 4 to 1 to endorse New Jersey's first black bear hunt in 33 years. But even after the vote, council members still debated alternatives to a hunt and ways to balance the risks of living too close to bears with the prospect of gunning them down.
Bears are increasingly a part of life here and in neighboring towns, roaming out of the dense woods in the watershed of Newark's reservoirs, and wandering down streets and through yards.
This summer, some encounters have been nasty. On Tuesday in nearby Vernon Township, a 3-year-old female bear invaded one home twice, and was shot and killed by a police officer as it emerged from its second visit. In May, in neighboring West Milford Township, a bear attacked and injured a man who had tackled the bear as it fought with his dog. Another West Milford man shot a large male bear moments after it stood, growling, at his door.
Until now, in towns like this one the bears have largely been a public safety issue. Now, because of a decision made in Newark, a place where the only bears play minor league baseball, the issue is a political one. Newark, which owns 35,000 acres of watershed in the heart of bear terrain, has said it will allow hunting only on the watershed lands in towns that endorse the hunt. So residents and politicians are noisily debating whether to allow the hunt, on Dec. 8 to 13.
Political pressures are intensifying and the rift between supporters and opponents of the hunt is deepening inside and beyond the hunt zone, bounded by Interstate 287 in the east, Interstate 78 in the south, the Delaware River in the west and New York in the north.
State officials contend that some of the area's most troublesome bears live in the watershed's deep woods. They say hunting in the watershed is critical to their goal of reducing the number of bears in it. Earlier this month, state officials say, they were told that Newark might bar bear hunting in the watershed. That set off some political maneuvering that has rippled out to Jefferson and the five other towns in the watershed.
In a Sept. 4 letter to the watershed agency, Larry Herrighty, chief of the state's Bureau of Wildlife Management, said homeowners in the six watershed towns made 838 nuisance complaints about bears from January 2001 to May 2003.
"If the watershed is not open for bear hunting, it essentially will become a sanctuary, severely restricting our ability to harvest bears that utilize the watershed as part of their home range," Mr. Herrighty wrote.
In response to the letter, Zinnerford Smith, executive director of the watershed agency, the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation, wrote to officials in Jefferson, Vernon, West Milford, and three other watershed towns, Hardyston Township, Kinnelon and Rockaway Township, saying Newark would permit the hunt in the watershed, except in any of the six towns that opposed the hunt on its portion of the watershed.
But the decision has not been easy. Even after approving the hunt, Jefferson's council members talked about other possible solutions.
Councilman Robert Birmingham mentioned hiring sharpshooters. The council vice president, Debi Merz, called for antihunting buffers near homes. The council president, Richard W. Yocum, the lone opponent of the hunt, stressed ways to keep bears away from garbage, like locks on Dumpsters, including the one outside Town Hall.
None of the six towns have objected yet to the hunt. Most have made conditional endorsements, perhaps reflecting the political divisions the hunt has created among residents.
Jefferson residents who live just south of the watershed are split over the hunt. They say they see bears frequently in the neighborhood, walking through yards, eating fallen acorns and crab apples, wandering near the beach on a little neighborhood lake, and getting into garbage cans. But, they say, the bears have not threatened anyone in the neighborhood or posed serious problems.
Maryellen McLeod said she favored the hunt. "They're getting to be real comfortable around people, and that could be a dangerous thing," she said.
Barbara Haug opposes it. "They were here first, and we're taking their space," she said. She added with a laugh, "Maybe they should have a people hunt."
Another opponent, Charlotte Bayley, said: "Bears are part of nature. They're here looking for survival. I'd rather get rid of squirrels. They're more brazen than bears."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
I am reading a lot of people complaining about the large amount of land being developed and the fact that people want large plots of land in order to live on, but what I do not hear is the reverse.
Places like Oakland NJ have had HUGE developments of overcrowded row houses squeezed on land that was once a boy-scout camp. (Population went up by almost 50% in 5 years after development...)
One family houses placed together so close you can touch two of them by holding out your arms.
Now, although I don't like the idea of sprawl, I am further objectionable to Urban Cramming. People from NYC with NO CLUE about what a "yard" is wanting to spend the money they got during a very prosperous time coming out and seeing things like a Picnic Table in the back "yard" and thinking that that is huge.
I think that we should make it very difficult to build out all the land in NJ, but we should also concentrate on making it difficult to overbuild.
I see no problem with a 5 acre lot, so long as they don't build it all in the Ramapo Reservation to do it (THAT development REALLY irritates me. Nice houses, but the lazy developers chopped down ALL the trees to put them in, THEN they planted a few new ones...)
Oh, thing that gets me is the whole bear thing too. People complain about the bears in their back yard, but we were the ones that moved into THEIR back yard, why are we so surprised that they come around?
That's a paradox that can only be solved by population control.think that we should make it very difficult to build out all the land in NJ, but we should also concentrate on making it difficult to overbuild.
October 21, 2003
War on Sprawl in New Jersey Hits a Wall
By IVER PETERSON
TRENTON, Oct. 20 — Nine months after Gov. James E. McGreevey promised to wage the nation's toughest anti-sprawl campaign in its most crowded state, his bold growth-control proposals are all but in tatters.
The governor and his staff conceded in recent interviews that a divided Legislature and opposition from builders made it pointless to introduce the most far-reaching anti-sprawl laws he outlined in a fiery State of the State address in January, when he vowed to take on "those who profit from the strip malls and McMansions."
Instead, Mr. McGreevey, a Democrat in his first term as governor, will focus on less controversial legislative and regulatory changes.
And on Friday, the administration abandoned the BIG map, for Blueprint for Intelligent Growth, which had divided the state into areas open for more growth, some growth and no growth. Those elements will be absorbed into another plan, officials said.
Controlling sprawl in New Jersey is a universally popular idea in the abstract but becomes politically fraught when it comes to telling builders where to build, towns how to zone, and residents where they can live.
"Everyone's against sprawl, but the problem is they also live in it," said Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club's New Jersey chapter. "It's sort of like being in traffic, where it's the guy next to me who is the problem, not me."
Besides Mr. McGreevey's largely abandoned legislative agenda, the BIG map represented an effort to create a statewide development plan, with regions delineated in green, yellow and red to designate areas for growth, little growth and no growth.
On the Department of Environmental Protection's anti-sprawl Web site on Monday, a message read in part, "To avoid confusion and misinterpretations, while further revisions are considered, the BIG map has been removed."
The New Jersey Builders Association, the governor's strongest opponent in his growth management campaign, liked to call the abandoned BIG map the Big Red Map, after the large areas that it placed off-limits.
"The D.E.P.'s inconsistency regarding the Big Red Map is symptomatic of the broader disarray that characterizes the administration's policies with respect to planning for New Jersey's future and the housing needs of its families," said Patrick J. O'Keefe, chief executive of the builders' association.
But Bradley M. Campbell, the commissioner of environmental protection, defended the decision and said the governor was not retreating from his campaign to manage growth.
"This is not a retreat at all," Mr. Campbell said in an interview. "In fact, it is another step forward we are taking."
Mr. Campbell said the BIG map's environmental protection data on endangered species and watershed protection areas would be incorporated in the 11-year state plan, which spells out growth management objectives on a county-by-county basis.
"This was our stated objective from the outset," Mr. Campbell said. "That message was simply drowned out by the builders, but we achieved what we said we were going to do all along. The builders just spent the last nine months on what really has been a red herring."
The governor's legislative agenda, spelled out in January and again in March, has less of a future, at least for now, officials said.
In his earlier speeches, Mr. McGreevey said he would introduce new land-use laws to let municipalities charge builders for even the cost of their construction away from the site, on school capacity and roads.
Another law was to give municipalities the power to block developments that they deemed did not meet local long-term goals for traffic.
Yet another widely discussed notion was to allow towns to spread out development over long periods, to reduce the impact of sudden population growth on schools, roads and services.
"We're not talking about that anymore," a staff member said.
All that remains of Mr. McGreevey's legislative agenda are a noncontroversial proposal to help farmers sell development rights, giving the developer who pays for them a bigger project somewhere else, and possibly one allowing towns to charge developers additional fees.
These proposals will probably be introduced in January, when the Legislature returns after next month's elections for a lame-duck session, the governor said last week.
Mr. McGreevey's policies have had some significant impacts.
He has used his environmental regulatory powers to close 7,865 acres around reservoirs to development, and to impose buffers along 69 miles of rivers and streams.
Mr. McGreevey also won legislative approval of three public referendum questions for the Nov. 4 election. One would increase state borrowing to buy open space, another would help pay to clean up polluted industrial sites for redevelopment, and a third would speed up repairs of public parks, waterways and dams.
In pressing to go beyond these measures, however, the governor encountered considerable resistance.
"We spent two or three months working with the stakeholders for a consensus, and we couldn't get an agreement," a McGreevey official concerned with land-use issues said on the condition of anonymity. "Second, the Legislature has no appetite for this. Zero."
The Legislature's reluctance to take on far-reaching changes in land-use laws in an election year, when builders contribute heavily to campaigns, has left the governor's staff members with sour feelings toward the lawmakers.
"I don't think anyone was under any illusion that the Legislature was not and is not under the thrall of the builders' lobby to a large extent," a different McGreevey official said, also on the condition of anonymity.
But many legislators maintain that Mr. McGreevey oversold his anti-sprawl campaign, and particularly erred in singling out developers for public criticism in his State of the State address. The builders' association played his speech over and over on television monitors at its Atlantic City convention shortly afterward.
"I think the governor probably went too far in the State of the State to demonize home builders and office park builders, as if they were somehow the cause of our problems here in New Jersey," said State Senator John H. Adler, a Cherry Hill Democrat. "I think he was trying to galvanize public support, but I think his rhetoric got a little bit ahead of him."
The governor, in an interview last week, seemed to agree.
"Maybe the rhetoric got a little overheated," Mr. McGreevey said, "but we had to motivate people for change."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
March 23, 2004
Trenton Eases Local Efforts to Preserve Open Space
By LAURA MANSNERUS
TRENTON, March 22 - The New Jersey Legislature gave final approval on Monday to a measure giving local governments the authority to preserve open space and farmland, which few can afford to buy, by transferring development rights instead.
A spokesman for Gov. James E. McGreevey said he would sign the bill, which he had advocated as part of his campaign to curb sprawl.
Despite the popularity of land preservation programs, governments at all levels have been hard pressed to meet soaring land costs, especially in the semirural areas of New Jersey that are most sought-after by developers. Municipal governments are usually unable to restrict building without compensating the owners of land who would otherwise be able to sell it to the highest bidder.
The new legislation would let towns transfer development rights from farms and undeveloped areas by setting up a bank that would compensate owners for giving up their rights to sell to developers. Developers could buy the rights, which would allow them to build more in already-developed areas.
The towns would have to designate the areas that would be preserved for development and those areas where people could build on by using their development rights.
After the State Senate approved the measure in a 37-to-2 vote on Monday, Mr. McGreevey's press secretary, Micah Rasmussen, said: "Towns have been powerless up until this point. If they tried it, they wound up in court."
"Overdevelopment is one of the issues that the governor hears about most when he talks to local mayors," Mr. Rasmussen said.
New Jersey has an ambitious plan to acquire or protect land through a fund of more than $1 billion set up in 1999, financed through general revenues, to carry out Gov. Christie Whitman's plan to save one million acres, or about one-fifth of its land area.
But from 1998 to 2002, the per-acre price of farmland rose 54 percent, and the price of other undeveloped land rose 79 percent, according to New Jersey Future, a nonprofit land-use organization that opposes sprawl. The organization estimates that the state loses 18,000 acres a year to development.
New Jersey Future sought the legislation for years, and Barbara Lawrence, the group's director, said, "I hope it breaks the logjam that has held up planning legislation since the 1980's."
Ms. Lawrence said a mechanism for transferring development rights was especially important to efforts to preserve the Highlands, an area of about 750,000 acres in northwestern New Jersey that provides much of the state's drinking water.
Programs involving the transfer of development rights have been set up on a limited basis in some other states, including New York and Pennsylvania, and in the New Jersey Pinelands, where land use is governed by state regulations.
New Jersey started a demonstration program in Burlington County in 1989, authorizing towns there to redraw their plans and use development rights banks.
Philip B. Caton, a planner who has worked with one of them, Chesterfield Township, said more than 2,000 acres had been preserved through the program.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
It would be great to start protecting large areas of land as simply 'rural' area and farmland.
As far as the developed area of New Jersey goes, I'm wondering how much of it is actually large parking lots and abandoned grass fields......
Oooh, good point.Originally Posted by AJphx
Um, a lot.
We are talking about areas that people want.
It is just like saying "I wonder how many areas of Queens and Brooklyn are run down ex warehouse and industrial districts" when people are scrambling looking for a place, and affordable place, to live in close enough to NYC.
I got a similar reaction from my GF looking at the parking lot space that was being used at the Garden State Plaza. She could not believe in all the parking that was needed. But, as I pointed out, that lot gets FULL on weekends. They built an additional parking garage next to it, and IT gets full. During peak shopping (Black Friday) they park on the grass all the way out to the highway.
The need is strong.
But anyway, back to the grasslands comment. You would be surprised. they are starting to build EVERYWHERE now. The Jersey Shore would be a good example. Go down into these communities that used to be the inexpensive places that the shore's buisnes owners and employees used to live in. Construction down there exploded and now it is hard to find anything affordable that has ANY connection to NYC and the surrounding area.
Also look at the SWAMPLAND around the meadowlands. This is area that is being fought for by the EPA, but yet this "desirable" land is under proposal for a HUGE mall to service, mostly, NYC residents that don't want to drive to Woodbury Commons to go shopping.
I guess what I am saying is that even though you see a lot of area that is undeveloped in NJ, most of it is that way because it is too far away from anything to be even slightly marketable. But even in my lifetime I have seen a LOT of the wilderness and farmland developed with less than desirable housing units or full developments and I think a buffer is needed before community greed (councle seats, etc) overrides long term community health.