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S1: Bad for the Environment

Date : Mon, 15 Mar 2010 12:19:47 -0400

For Immediate Release
March 15, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, Director, Sierra Club New Jersey Chapter, 609-558-9100

S1: Bad for the Environment Puts Builders Remedy Target on Half the Towns in NJ

A bill that will abolish the Council on Affordable Housing (S1) puts open season on more than half of New Jersey's municipalities, giving power to developers to determine how towns will meet their affordable housing obligations. This bill, passed today by the Senate Economic Growth Committee, will encourage sprawl and overdevelopment and put our natural resources at risk because it contains no environmental criteria.

In the name of reform, this bill could actually make matters worse. The Sierra Club is opposed to this bill because it lacks environmental oversight and does not include the necessary scrutiny that should be required for affordable housing development projects.

"We're putting a bulls-eye on more than half of New Jersey's municipalities, where builders remedy suits determine how towns deal with affordable housing," NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said. "This is a step backwards when it comes to planning and how towns will determine their futures. All this bill will accomplish is more sprawl, more overdevelopment, more traffic, and higher taxes."

While the Sierra Club strongly supports affordable housing in New Jersey, we believe it should not be used as a tool to undermine environmental protections or promote growth in inappropriate places. Housing should be located where the jobs are, helping to prevent sprawl and pollution while providing people with economic opportunities.

S1 should be amended to have environmental criteria to ensure inclusionary development and other affordable housing projects go in appropriate locations. Affordable housing should be placed in approved waste water management areas under the adopted Water Quality Management Planning Rules and areas with adequate water supply.

Under the bill, inclusionary development just needs to be in a sewer service area, regardless if there are actually sewers on the site or not. Many sewer service areas go back to 60s and may not even have sewer plants or sewer lines in them. This bill allows for the extension of sewers into environmentally-sensitive areas if near a sewer service area. Some of the worst sprawl projects in New Jersey, such as Windy Acres in Clinton Township, Pondview in Rockaway, or Pinnacle in Oakland, happened because of this type of situation.

This language will promote sprawl and overdevelopment one development at a time. Many towns that are the targets for the builders are in the Highlands and Pinelands and in environmentally-sensitive areas.

"This legislation may end up being worse than the current situation," Tittel said. "We'll get rid of COAH and give all the power the builders."

The bill gives too much authority and power to the State Planning Commission. If passed, we'll simply be replacing COAH with another agency and bureaucracy. The State Plan has been a failure and the State Planning Commission doesn't function. It is filled with developers and people who work for developers. If you think that the COAH rules are arcane and hard to follow, try following the State Planning Commission's Plan Endorsement.

The data in the State Plan is from 1986 - it is outdated and filled with errors. The State Plan has never included a proper environmental analysis or strategic analysis for the State of New Jersey on how and where growth should take place. The State Planning Act says that the State Plan has no regulatory authority. By giving the State Planning Commission this power, we will undermine affordable housing and the protection of natural resources.

Towns that comply with their affordable housing requirements should have a legal shield but S1 takes those rights away. We believe towns that have passed ordinances and have complied with affordable housing requirements should not only be indemnified against lawsuits but the State Attorney General should defend those towns in cases of builder's remedy litigation.

Under this bill, all projects in areas without inclusionary zoning go to the board of adjustment, giving power to developers. This applies to more than half the towns in New Jersey, mostly those in rural and environmentally sensitive areas. This bill doesn't give towns alternatives to inclusionary zoning, like group homes for the handicapped, infill development, accessory apartments, or Habitat for Humanity projects.

Furthermore, designating affordable housing as "inherently beneficial" will put towns at the mercy of developers or face a lawsuit. "Inherently beneficial only benefits the builders," Tittel said.

Developers will be able to use the inherently beneficial designation as a way to overturn local zoning and get permission to build projects in environmentally sensitive areas. This would be a major step backwards to the days in the 1980s, when builders remedy lawsuits not only undermined good planning but resulted in some of the worst sprawl projects in state history. We need to get rid of COAH but we should not go back to the days when towns were at the mercy of lawyers and developers.

 

"This legislation is an attack on environmental protections and planning," Tittel said. "It's going to mean more overdevelopment and sprawl. It puts a builders remedy bulls-eye on more than half of the towns in New Jersey."

S1 = More Sprawl and Overdevelopment

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 2010-03-15 09:19:47

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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