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Sierra Club Intervenes in Supreme Court Open Space Case

Date : Wed, 11 Feb 2009 15:58:53 -0500

For Immediate Release

February 11, 2009 Contact: Jeff Tittel

(609) 558-9100

Sierra Club Intervenes in Supreme Court Open Space Case

               THE CASE HAS STATEWIDE IMPLICATIONS ON PRESERVATION EFFORTS

The Sierra Club announced today that it has intervened in the Jackson Township open space ordinance case, which is currently before the state Supreme Court. The ordinance, which would require developers to set aside 12.5 acres of open space for every 1,000 residents, was invalidated by an appellate court in June after a 2007 challenge by the New Jersey Shore Builders Association. In October, the township filed an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club has filed an amicus application in support of upholding the ordinance, which was originally adopted in 2003 and amended in 2006. The Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) joined the Sierra Club as a partner on the amicus application. The Columbia University Environmental Law Clinic is representing the Sierra Club.

"We believe that the appellate division created an open season on open space by denying the rights of towns to plan for recreation and conservation areas," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "It overturns not only the Jackson ordinance but dozens of other of ordinances around the state that are intended to have good planning and design." The ordinance aims to require that development be laid out in a manner that protects open space, establishes areas for passive and active recreation and preserves critical natural resources such as stream corridors and wildlife habitats. If the ruling to invalidate Jackson's ordinance is upheld, it will undermine similar open space ordinances dozens of other municipalities have passed in an effort to control overdevelopment and preserve land. Such a precedent would be a devastating blow to the statewide effort to preserve open space.

The ordinance calls for between 10 percent and 40 percent of the developed property to be set aside for open space, depending on the type of environment and zoning. "That's not only good planning, it's common sense," Tittel said.

New Jersey is already number one in the nation in loss of open space to development as a percent to its overall size. "Without ordinances that would allow municipalities to set aside open space, not only will we be paved end to end but we will see extremely negative effects from traffic and pollution because of it," Tittel said. "We must appeal this decision because it is a major setback for both good planning and conservation. We are hopeful the Supreme Court will overturn this devastating decision."

Tittel said the New Jersey Shore Jersey Builders Association has a history of opposing environmentally-friendly rules and regulations - from the Pinelands Act to the Wetlands Law to stream protection. "We believe the appellate court took the sides of builders and special interest over the interests of the public and the environment," Tittel said.

The Jackson Township case was joined with a similar case from Egg harbor Township in the Appellate Division. Both Townships' open space ordinances are now before the Supreme Court. Jackson and Egg Harbor Townships each lost more acres of open space to new development than any other New Jersey municipality during a five-year boom in residential development between 1995 and 2002. Following those losses of land to development, these two municipalities determined that open space ordinances were necessary to effectuate their obligation to protect the public health and welfare.

The Supreme Court granted Sierra Club and ANJEC's request last fall to file a brief in a case where the Shore Builders had challenged Jackson Township's tree ordinance. That case was argued before the Supreme Court in September and the decision is pending.

A. Gregory Auriemma, Chair of the Sierra Club of Ocean, said the case is imperative in conserving open space. "The Ocean Sierra Club has been a leader in fighting over-development. Our members and friends know how important this case is in the fight to protect open space. We are pleased to know that their voice will now be heard by the NJ Supreme Court."

Argument in the open space case is scheduled to be heard by the Court on March 9, 2009.

############

Kara Seymour, Program Assistant NJ Sierra Club

145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618

609.656.7612

(f) 609.656.7618

<http://www.newjersey.sierraclub.org> www.newjersey.sierraclub.org

Received on 2009-02-11 13:58:53

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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