Governor McGreevey, in his recent State
of the State, cited suburban sprawl as "the greatest
threat to our quality of life." The Governor went
on to outline a broad approach to curb sprawl.
The next day Commissioners Brad Campbell of DEP, John
Lettiere of DOT, Susan Bass Levin of DCA and Agriculture
Secretary Charles Kuperus, unveiled the "Big Map."
For the past several months, the League's Smart Growth
Committee, chaired by League President and Elizabeth Mayor
Chris Bollwage, has been meeting with the commissioners
to provide input into the development of the preliminary
and conceptual map. The map divides the state into red
zones, in which the state will not offer subsidies for
development; yellow zones in which there may be some development;
and green zones, which are targeted for growth.
The Administration drew some immediate "Chicken Little"
type criticism, particularly from those in the development
community who believe that the sky is literally falling.
The League's response, however, was deliberately restrained.
We are encouraged by some of the points outlined by the
Governor in the State of the State. For too long, the
playing field has been tilted in favor of developers at
the expense of local officials, and, more importantly,
The only red flag to us is the prospect of regional planning.
If this is to provide a mediator for border conflicts,
that's one thing. But if this means usurping the duties
of local planning boards, the League will defend the rights
of our citizens to self-determination.
As for the "Big Map," we're taking a wait-and-see
position. It is our responsibility to work with DEP and
DCA on this matter. We are developing a series of regional
meetings so that local officials can give direct feedback
to DEP and DCA on how the Map affects municipalities.
All in all, we're encouraged by what we hear. Before the
State of the State, many columnists and editorial pages
opined that home rule was the problem, that 566 plans
clashed and caused sprawl and that the stick, rather than
the carrot, is necessary to bring municipalities into
The truth is just the opposite; sprawl has burdened our
landscape because of infringements on home rule. Local
officials must balance contrary and competing interests:
environmental concerns, affordable housing obligations,
the overwhelming desire of the population for open space
preservation, and property tax relief, to name just a
few. It's time for the Legislature, and yes even the Courts,
to give municipalities the tools to balance these interests.
We welcome the Administration's support on these issues.
We also call on the Administration to work with the League
to pass legislation authorizing timed-growth ordinances
and transfer of development rights (TDR).
And we welcome the opportunity to articulate our vision
of smart growth, which can be summed up in two words: