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New Jersey

The State of New Jersey has good reason to pursue a state growth management program. With approximately 8 million people living on little more than 8,000 square miles, it is the most densely populated state in the nation. Although the state does not have any very large cities within its borders, it is subject to development pressures from the New York metropolitan area to its northeast and the Philadelphia metropolitan area to the southwest. The resulting suburban sprawl is readily visible, particularly in the parts of the state that fall within the New York City commutershed. The state uses a variety of approaches to pursue the goals of channeling growth into designated development areas. The goals are to help protect the natural environment and also to minimize the cost of servicing population growth. Meeting those goals will also give New Jersey residents convenient access to the natural world.

The state plan is only advisory to municipal governments, but it does provide a financial carrot for local governments in that state agencies must use the state plan in making decisions about capital investments. Thus the state's power of the purse with regard to roads, water and sewer mains, the location of public facilities, and the like reinforces the plan.

Coastal areas of the state fall under the authority of the Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA), passed in 1973. Under this act, development along the state's Atlantic and Delaware Bay shores and along some of their tributaries requires both local government and state approval. Thus the state has a say over development on much of the most ecologically fragile and desirable land in the state.

Beyond that, there are two areas of the state subject to regional authorities. The 30.4-square-mile Hackensack Meadowlands area, best known to sports fans as the home of Giants Stadium, falls under the authority of the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission, established in 1969 and now renamed the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. The area contains parts of two counties, Bergen and Hudson, and 14 municipalities. The area, which is across the Hudson River from Manhattan, is traversed by two rivers, the Hackensack and the Passaic. For years much of it was basically a swampy wasteland and dumping ground for the region. Yet given its position in the New York metropolitan area it was obviously a very valuable location. Clearly it needed a coordinated planning system, and that was provided by the Meadowlands Commission.

The legislature that established the Commission gave it the key power to override local zoning. It also let it establish a system of property tax sharing. That was important because it meant that development could be channeled to the places where it made most sense without other areas fighting it because they didn't want to lose the tax revenues (a somewhat similar system has been used in Minneapolis-St. Paul; see Chapter 16). To deal with the inevitable problems of intermunicipal rivalry a Meadowlands Municipal Commission composed of the Mayor of each of the 14 towns was set up, and its concerns are taken very seriously by the Meadowlands Commission.

Forty years later the results are impressive. The area is home to much commercial development as well as considerable residential development, though not quite as much as the Commission would like. Highway development and traffic management have been coordinated in the area, which experiences a huge amount of commuting, both internal to New Jersey and between New Jersey and Manhattan. Much of the wetland area has been restored. Brownfields (see Chapter 15) have been redeveloped, green building standards have been promoted and widely applied, and economies of scale in the provision of various public services have been achieved through intermunicipal cooperation.

Further south, about 1 million acres (roughly 1,600 square miles and one-fifth of the state's total land area) fall under the jurisdiction of the Pine- lands Commission. The area contains 52 municipalities and parts of seven counties. Throughout the area, local plans must conform to the Commission's plan. Thus the Commission has control over the density of development and types of land uses permitted in this large and environmentally fragile area.

All of the preceding program does not guarantee that New Jersey will be able to control the process of sprawl, as there are very powerful forces behind sprawl—in particular, the economic dynamism of those parts of the state near New York and Philadelphia, and the public demand for housing and for what H.G. Wells a century ago (see page 14) called that "private imperium." However, this program does give the state a fighting chance to contain sprawl and to achieve an orderly pattern of development in those parts of the state where there are still substantial blocks of land that remain to be developed.

Numerous other states have growth management plans at the state level. Most plans have some of the elements noted before. Many designate development areas and seek to divert growth into those areas. Many use the state's ability to use capital investments as a carrot to induce municipal governments to make their plans conform to the state's overall plan. State plans generally place emphasis on protecting environmentally fragile areas, whether they be shorelines, wetlands, estuaries, or, in the case of Vermont and other mountainous states, land at high elevations. A number of states also seek to protect areas of particular scenic or historic value from excessive development, and they use a mix of regulation and financial incentives for this purpose.

 
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