November 18, 2011
Re: URGENT LEGISLATIVE ALERT
Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee meeting on Monday
On Monday, the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee will be meeting for the first time since June.
The committee will consider:
A-4128, which the League opposes and would allow for modifications to land use approvals because of changed economics, without the normal review of development applications. Fundamentally this legislation usurps, undermines, and overturns local zoning by effectively rescinding all applicable zoning of the property, and provides no adequate public safeguards.
More on this bill is available at: www.njslom.com/letters/2011-0801-land-use.html
A-898/S-1141, which permits the Board of Fire Commissioners to approve the insertion of any special item of revenue in fire district budget when such item made available by any public or private funding source was unknown at the time of budget adoption. The laws governing Fire Districts has not been substantially revised since 1940. This bill is the first step to bring the Fire District budget process in line with existing laws for municipalities and counties. Currently, if a fire district receives a grant after their budget adoption they must hold the grant funds until the next budget year. As a result, fire districts have lost opportunities to receive grant funding. The League supports A-898/S-1141.
A-3990/S-317, which seeks to require contracting units to credit contractors with interest earned on certain retained payments that are released to the contractor upon completion of project. In view of the economic stresses public entities presently face on a daily basis, it is unreasonable to require municipalities to return the interest earned on the retainage fee to the contractor. This would be a needless burden to the taxpayers. The small amount of interest should continue to accrue to municipalities to offset the costs, such as staffing, accounting and auditing, incurred to manage this program. Moreover, there is no relationship between the municipality and sub-contractors. The relationship is between the municipality and the general contractor. The municipality pays the general contractor directly, generally after completion of specific phases of the work. The general contractor in turn, is responsible for paying its sub-contractors. It is, therefore, the general contractor who should be expected to bear the gains and losses associated with the sub-contractor. The League opposes A-3990/S-317.
A-3992 would exempt wind turbine projects that meet certain criteria from “…regulatory review other than limited minor site plan approval.” This legislation would define any such qualifying projects as a permitted use under local zoning. Further, any such project would be exempt from any public notice or hearing requirement.
Projects would need to meet the follow standards for this special exemption:
- No more than 1 turbine for every 33 contiguous acres of farmland;
- 750 foot setback requirement from any residence or property line;
- Must not exceed 55 decibels noise level at the property line; and
- Meets uniform construction code requirements and all interconnection requirements as set forth by the Board of Public Utilities.
The League supports green energy production, as demonstrated through our efforts in supporting Mayors for a Green Future and Sustainable Jersey. However, as worthy as these goals are, these uses should be subject to appropriate regulation and local review.
The League opposes A-3992 for the following reasons:
- The legislation is an unnecessary intrusion on local zoning discretion;
- This legislation undermines the legislative and regulatory intent of the farmland preservation program. Public dollars were used to permanently preserve farmland, and this bill would open such land to large scale wind energy generation projects;
- Exempting such projects from notice and hearing requirements excludes public notice and participation in the process. Effectively, the review of such a project would be limited to a minor site plan review of the criteria specified in the legislation. There is no reason why such projects should not be open the same notice and public hearing requirements as any other project.
A-4114, which allows all municipalities to sell and lease unneeded public property for "urban" farming and gardening purposes. Currently cities of the first, second, third or fourth classes are permitted to lease a tract of land of less than five (5) acres to a non-profit corporation or association to cultivate and sell fresh fruits and vegetables. A-4114 simply expands this authority to all municipalities. The League supports A-4114 as another land use tool for municipalities to use when addressing use for vacant land.
We urge you to reach out immediately to the members of the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee and your Assembly representatives on these bills.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.