Friday, September 05, 2008
League Statement on the Governor’s Executive Order on the Highlands
Our review of the Governor’s Executive Order has only just begun, but we are sure that local governments in the Highlands region appreciate the Governor’s directive that the Highlands Council work with respective state agencies to clarify the relationship between the imposition of the recently adopted COAH regulations and the Highlands plan.
In particular, the directive to develop adjusted growth projections consistent with the Highlands Plan and the “reasonable extensions” of submissions to COAH, which we presume means an extension of the current December 31 deadline, is a welcome first step.
We note, however, that the same COAH methodology that resulted in erroneous and inflated growth projections in the Highlands was also used to project growth statewide. Now that the State is addressing the erroneous projections in the Highlands, it should also acknowledge the errors in the rest of the State, extend the December 31 deadline statewide and work with interested stakeholders to fix the COAH regulations.
On July 15, the League notified the Court of our intentions to challenge the validity of the COAH regulations, which were effective in June. We are preparing to file our brief later this month, and, to date, 222 municipalities have made financial pledges towards our efforts. In July, we cited, what we termed, “the Seven Fatal Flaws” of the COAH regulations. Among those flaws were inconsistencies between the COAH regulations and other State planning efforts, including but not limited to the Highlands Plan, the Pinelands and the State Plan.
To the extent that today’s actions address and lessen the inconsistencies between the COAH regulations and the Highlands Plan, the Executive Order is a positive step, but it should just be the first of many steps.
The League appreciates the hard work of the Highlands Council. While there has been and will continue to be great debate on the Highlands regional plan, the Council and staff should be commended for an open and inclusionary process, and the League will continue to be an active participant as we move forward.
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