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Undemocratic Bill Subsidizes Overdevelopment

Date : Mon, 1 Feb 2010 12:54:13 -0500

For Immediate Release
February 1, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100

Undemocratic Bill Subsidizes Overdevelopment

The Senate Economic Growth Committee today approved a bill that blocks citizens from having referendums on development projects covered under the NJ Stimulus Act.

The bill, S920, is an attack on democracy and a major step backwards for the rights of citizens to determine the future of their communities. In many towns and cities in New Jersey, citizens have right to petition the government on ordinances that affect development in their communities by taking it to a referendum. This bill will restrict those rights and turn New Jersey into a developer oligarchy.

"Citizens have the right to vote to spend money for open space or for school construction but under this bill, they will be stripped of their rights to decide whether or not to spend tens of millions of dollars to subsidize private development," said NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel. "This turns democracy on its head."

Referendums are rare and typically only used when a project is controversial and bad for the environment. Referendums are an important tool for residents to access in order to uphold proper planning, protect the environment and natural resources, and safeguard their communities from unnecessary development.

Citizens usually take ordinances to referendum in situations when their rights have been trampled and the town council has arrogantly discarded public option on a development project. In some towns where citizens have seen elected officials indicted or sentenced to jail, a referendum is a safety net that can be used to block a project that is the result of corruption and greed.

It's especially important that residents have the ability to rely on a referendum in the case with stimulus projects because towns could use eminent domain or fund these developments to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, adding to debt that will become the citizens' obligation.

Towns that have used referendums in the past usually have the benefit of stopping bad projects and encouraging smarter, better developments. The residents of Hoboken used a referendum to stop a very dense waterfront project. Instead, a more balanced project that has public access, parkland, and doesn't block view of river was constructed. In Ringwood, citizens used their rights to a referendum to overwhelmingly vote down sewer access to 1,000 condos on a mountain.

Citizens of Atlantic City have successfully petitioned for a referendum on $300 million in subsidies for a casino. The legislature is trying to take away the citizen's rights to stop that proposal.

"What we're seeing is not only massive subsidies for developers at the expense of taxpayers but the elimination of citizen's rights to oppose projects that cause overdevelopment, hurt the environment, and bankrupt taxpayers," Tittel said.

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 2010-02-01 09:54:13

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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