If You Are a Local Public Official or Urban Planner in the Highlands Region
- If your municipality is wholly in the planning area or partly in the preservation area, you will have an additional regional planning agency to deal with (because you will still deal with the State Planning Commission). If you are wholly in the Highlands preservation area you will deal with the Highlands Planning Council instead of the State Planning Commission, and the Highlands Planning Council will hold the ultimate land use authority in your town.
- The Highlands Planning Council will have the right to review certain building projects of local government anywhere within the Highlands Region. It will have the right to reject such projects in the preservation area.
- Have your finance director, city attorney, and assessor read section 19 of the Highlands bill carefully. This section outlines the procedure used to determine if you can collect property tax stabilization funds as a result of fiscal stress that might be caused by this bill.
- Mount Laurel affordable housing projects that are the result of a past legal settlement will be exempt from the bill. Future Mount Laurel housing projects will need to go in places designated for growth by the State Planning Commission or the Highlands Council.
- Planning grants will be available to municipalities in exchange for plan conformance and a demonstrated willingness to create a "receiving zone" under TDR. Because implementation of this bill will require a lot more staff time by local planning offices, be aware of and take advantage of these grants. The State Office of Smart Growth can help you apply for state planning assistance until such time as the Highlands Planning Council is appointed and staffed.
- It would probably be a good idea to seek planning grants as soon as possible, because new pressures will be placed on existing planning staff almost immediately.
- Also look to organizations like New Jersey Planning Officials, the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissioners, the Center for Government Services (Rutgers/Bloustein School), the Amercian Planning Association-New Jersey Chapter, and the Municipal Land Use Center (College of New Jersey) for technical support, training, or networking related to the new planning challenges in the Highlands. If these organizations don't have the program you think you need, ask them to create one!
- You may want to see what the New Jersey League of Municipalities has to say about this legislation.