GH&C Alert: Christie Administration Announces Sweeping Changes To State Planning
October 24, 2011
October 24, 2011 -The Christie Administration has just released its long-awaited proposal to deal with the dormant State Development and Redevelopment Plan. The proposal, now called the (Proposed Final Draft) “STATE STRATEGIC PLAN: New Jersey’s State Development & Redevelopment Plan,” ( the “Plan”) is now out for public comment and review by affected parties, including developers, environmental groups, planners, advocacy groups and all other potentially interested groups. A series of public hearings will be held throughout the state.
The Plan is markedly different in appearance from its predecessor “State Development and Redevelopment Plan” (the “SDRP”). For starters, the “Big Map” is gone and the document is only 41 pages long compared to the hundreds of pages in the SDRP. Instead of hundreds of documented “Goals” in the existing SDRP, there are only four broadly defined Goals and five “Guiding Principles.”
The four (4) Goals are (1) Targeted Economic Growth; (2) Effective Planning for Vibrant Regions; (3) Preservation and Enhancement of Critical State Resources: and (4) Tactical Alignment of Government.
The five (5) Guiding Principles for State Decision Making are (1) Predictability; (2) Spatial Efficiency; (3) Leveraging Assets; (4) Sustainability; and (5) Institutionalizing Change.
The Plan also discusses at length the “Red Tape Review Group” and its findings and makes a point about continuing the Christie Administration’s efforts to reduce bureaucratic hindrances to job growth and development.
The Plan also attempts to better align the different state departments and agencies involved in development and environmental protection. For example, the Plan calls for a Cabinet level Steering Committee to coordinate the various aspects and programs dealing with state issues. Governor Christie immediately adopted Executive Order No. 78 on October 19, 2011 appointing the Steering Committee. The members of the Steering Committee include the Secretaries of Agriculture and State, the Commissioners of the Departments of Environmental Protection, Transportation and Education, as well as the President of the Board of Public Utilities, the Chief of Staff for Policy and Planning in the Office of the Governor, the Executive Director of New Jersey Transit, the Executive Director of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, and any other member the Governor decides to add. Significantly, the Lieutenant Governor is chairing the Steering Committee and will add the importance of her office to this Committee, another signal that the Administration is serious about state planning.
It is clear that the Christie Administration is intent on taking a much more “hands on” role in state planning rather than leaving matters up to the State Planning Commission. Under the State Planning Act of 1985, the State Planning Commission (“SPC”) is charged with the creation and modification of the State Development and Redevelopment Plan. Therefore, the SPC will have the legal responsibility to adopt a final version of the State Strategic Plan as the next iteration of the SDRP. But it seems clear that once adopted by the SPC, the state agencies will have a greater, and hopefully, more coordinated and consistent role in its implementation.
The Office of Planning Advocacy (“OPA”) (formerly the Office of Smart Growth) will be the central administrative agency supporting the cabinet level Steering Committee and is hard at work on the processes to get the Plan finalized by Spring 2012.
The draft Plan is candid about the failings of the prior SDRP and the burdensome processes involved in Cross-Acceptance, Plan Endorsement and Center Designation combined with the inability of various agencies and levels of government to resolve conflicting policies. It remains to be seen whether this Steering Committee approach and a more focused approach will work.
Another interesting drafting point is the inclusion of six (6) things that the draft Plan is NOT. These include statements that the draft Plan is NOT a “top-down” approach to force compliance with a statewide land use plan, nor a “silver bullet”, nor a “one size fits all” approach.
As with most announcements of this sort, the devil will be in the details. However, the tone of the announcement and the recognition of the problems with the existing SDRP and the process may bode well for a more balanced state planning approach that can actually enable sound projects to move forward.
Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla will continue to track the progress of this proposal and keep you aware of the development of the State Strategic Plan. For more information, please contact Peter S. Reinhart (email@example.com); John Giunco (firstname.lastname@example.org; Michael Gross (email@example.com) or Steve Corodemus (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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