November 22, 2011
Re: Legislative Recap for November 21
Numerous legislative committees met yesterday and there were a number of developments of interest to municipalities.
A-4128, which the League opposes was scheduled for the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee, but was held at the request of the sponsor, Assemblyman Al Coutino. This bill would allow for modifications to land use approvals because of changed economics, without the normal review of development applications. The League opposes A-4128/S-2950 because it will usurp, undermine, and overturn local zoning by effectively rescinding all applicable zoning of the property, and provides no adequate public safeguards.
After numerous conversations with the Assemblyman about the impact of this legislation, the sponsor agreed it was best to hold the bill, and explore alternatives that might address the underlying concern, which is the high number of stalled projects under foreclosure. The League agrees that a solution should be found so that such properties can be moved to the tax rolls, but the approach embraced in this legislation is not good public policy. We thank Assemblyman Coutinho for holding the bill, and look forward to working with him to craft a better solution. More on this bill is available at: www.njslom.com/letters/2011-0801-land-use.html
The Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee did consider and act on the following:
A-3990/S-317, which the League opposes, 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, was approved. 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. This bill, which has passed the Senate, can now be scheduled for a vote by the full Assembly. The League will be meeting shortly with other interested stakeholders in attempt to address these issues. The bill has passed the Senate and can be voted on by the full Assembly.
The Committee approved a substitute for A-3992, opposed by the League, which would exempt wind turbine projects that meet certain criteria from “…regulatory review other than limited minor site plan approval.” The committee substitute, which is not available online yet, narrowed the bill so that it pertains only to municipalities in Salem and Cumberland counties and preserved farmland. The League is reviewing the substitute, but maintains opposition since the legislation is an unnecessary intrusion on local discretion and undermines the State’s successful farmland preservation. A-3992 can now be voted on by the full Assembly. The Senate companion, S-2887, is assigned to the Senate Environment Committee. For more on this bill, please see our September 20 Dear Mayor Letter.
The Committee approved A-3949/S-2989, opposed by the League, which will amend the "Municipal Land Use Law," (MLUL) to exempt from site plan review the collocation of wireless communications equipment on existing support structures under certain circumstances. The legislation unnecessarily impedes on local discretion and unjustifiably waives notice and public hearing requirements. Specifically, A-3949/S-2989, would exempt the collocation from any site plan review, even if it proposed increasing the height of the tower by 10% and increased the footprint of the mechanical equipment compound by up to 2,500 sq. feet.
The Committee approved 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. This bill can now be voted on by the full Assembly. The Senate companion is assigned to the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.
The Committee approved A-898/S-1141, which the League supports. This will permit the Board of Fire Commissioners to approve the insertion of any special item of revenue in the fire district budget when such revenue is made available by any public or private funding source that was unknown at the time of the budget adoption. This bill will bring the Fire District budget process in line with the law for municipalities and counties by permitting Fire Districts to adopt Chapter 159s. This bill has passed the Senate and now awaits a vote by the full Assembly.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved A-4104, which amends the law governing the monies available to qualifying municipalities in which urban enterprise zones (“UEZs”) are located. This bill can now be voted on by the full Assembly. The Senate companion, S-2965, is assigned to the Senate Economic Growth Committee.
The Senate Commerce committee approved A-3537/S-2444, supported by the League, which would require the new owner of a foreclosed property to file contact information with the municipality. This bill previously passed the Assembly and can now be voted on by the full Senate.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.