If You Own a Large Tract of Undeveloped Land in the Highlands Region

  • My Property is in the Preservation Zone. How Do I Know if the Plans I Have for My Land Are Legal Under the New Highlands Act? (37k PDF)
  • If you are in the planning area of the Highlands Region, you could see more growth pressure and higher land prices as development displaced by the new plan spills over to your area.
  • If the Highlands Planning Council reduces the right you currently have to develop your land for residential or commercial use, your compensation will be calculated by means of a state administered appraisal designed to determine fair market value.
    • However, the bill itself does not guarantee that you will receive this compensation, either by means of state purchase of your land, state purchase of your development easement, or transfer of your development rights (TDR). Therefore, it is in your interest to contact your state legislators and become actively involved in upcoming discussions over (1) the allocation of new or existing funds to buy land or easements in the Highlands, and (2) design of the new TDR program. A November 4, 2003 ballot initiative increased the ceiling for bond-funded open space preservation in New Jersey. Background statements identified Highlands preservation as a major rationale for these referenda, but the new monies are not formally dedicated to a particular region of the state.

  • Notwithstanding the high priority placed on protecting lands in the Highlands Region, funds that have been appropriated to the existing Green Acres and Purchase of Development Rights programs will not be shifted from other parts of the state to the Highlands Region (see "If You Own Undeveloped Land or Engage in Agriculture Elswehere in the State," elsewhere on this web site).
    • On the other hand, there may be some retargeting of state Green Acres or PDR funds within the Highlands Region in order to preserve critical tracts immediately, help landowners who have development projects in the pipeline that just missed being grandfathered under the new bill, or help landowners with particularly large declines in value that can be attributed to this bill. [§54]

  • Structures that are built or reconstructed for "agricultural or horticultural purposes" in the preservation area are regulated differently than non-agricultural structures. [§31]
    • If agricultural building increases impervious cover by 3% of the total farm management unit within the preservation area, the farmer will be required to submit a "farm conservation plan" to the local soil conservation district.
    • If building increases impervious cover by 9%, the farmer will be required to submit a "resource management systems plan" to the soil conservation district, which will also be forwarded to the DEP for approval. The Department of Agriculture will adopt rules and regulations necessary to implement this portion of the bill.

  1. Rutgers
  2. Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  3. School of Environmental and Biological Sciences