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Important Court Win for Highlands TDR Program

Date : Thu, 11 Apr 2013 11:49:29 -0400

For Immediate Release
April 10, 2013 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Important Court Win for Highlands TDR Program An Appellate Division Court has upheld the valuation of Highlands Development Credits (HDCs) as determined by the Highlands Development Credit Bank.Bi County Development challenged the $2.36 million dollar valuation for their 262 acres. The site was not part of a sewer service area, but the developer was pushing for inclusion in a sewer service area prior to the Act being passed and wanted to be compensated on the value if the sewer service area had been granted rather than the value based on development on septics, which was significantly less.There was an agreement between the developer and the town to get sewers as part of an affordable housing development but that was not finalized before the Act was passed.The land is in the Preservation Area so sewers cannot be extended there. The courts rejected this claim because valuation is based on DEP regulations and municipal ordinances prior to the passage of the Highlands Act.The Highlands Act and Plan have now been upheld in more than a dozen court challenges.

"This is an important case in upholding the Highlands Act, the Highlands Plan Master, and the TDR program. This is an important and timely victory because it comes when the Christie administration is trying to weaken Highlands protections, rollback the RMP, replace professional staff with political appointees, and stack the Council.This is the same panel that decided the Waiver Rule," *said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club*. "Bi County Development was one of the worst projects proposed in the Highlands.There was an ongoing battle to stop the project by a number of groups since 1995.This was on Sierra Club worst of the sprawl list. This is one of the reasons we needed the Highlands Act." The site would have had 567 market rate homes and 131 COAH units.The site is in the Preservation Area in Jefferson and could not be developed without sewers. This is one of the most environmentally sensitive sites in the Highlands with flood hazard areas, steep slopes, high integrity forests, wetlands, threatened and endangered species, and drains to Trout Production streams and reservoirs. It is located in the Protection Zone, which is for high resource value lands important for protecting water quality, and in Planning Area 5 under the old State Plan. In 1997 the property was rezoned as an affordable housing site and as such was slated to get sewers.The Highlands Council determined that although the site had been approved for 654 lots on 262 acres only 39 acres were developable under RMP requirements.With adjustments and bonuses the Highlands Development Credit Bank determined the value as 147.75 HDCs valued at $2.36 million.

"The court decision shows the Highlands Act is working, the RMP is doing its job, and giving proper compensation to landowners, not speculative compensation," said Jeff Tittel."This means we get to preserve the Highlands and protect the taxpayers too." The court decision can be viewed here: http:www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/a1838-10.pdf<a>

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
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Received on 2013-04-11 08:49:29

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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