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Sweeney: Smart Growth Law Will Prevail

TRENTON – Senator Stephen M. Sweeney today predicted that comprehensive improvements in a new bill he has introduced will make the Smart Growth Law a national model for sensible development and preservation in the war against sprawl.

“I believe now – more than ever before – that the Smart Growth Law will prove incredibly instrumental to the public interest of preserving precious open space, fighting sprawl and focusing development on where it is needed,” Senator Sweeney said. “In fact, I have every confidence that New Jersey’s Smart Growth Law will be a model for the nation.”

Senator Sweeney, who last year sponsored the initial Smart Growth Law along with Acting Governor Codey, said the executive order continuing the moratorium on the law’s starting date “will lead to the positive conclusion I am committed to achieving for New Jersey – an effective Smart Growth statute.”

Under Senator Sweeney’s new bill, S-2761, the amended definition of a “permit” that could be expedited would exclude any approval needed under the Pesticide Control Act of 1971, the Industrial Site Recovery Act, the Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act, the Solid Waste Utility Control Act, or the Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act.

“This (definition of ‘permit’) should ease any fears that the Act will endanger our public health or safety,” Senator Sweeney said.

The bill also would require the Department of Environmental Protection to begin a technical review of all completed applications by publishing them in the DEP bulletin and on the DEP website. Once a permit application is deemed technically complete, a requested public meeting or hearing on multiple permits for a single application would be held within 30 days. A decision on the application then would be made within 15 days of the hearing.

“Full public participation will be incorporated into the process,” Senator Sweeney said. “Our intent here to maintain prevailing home rule with all local zoning authority has the legal backing of the Office of Legislative Services. There is no attempt here to pre-empt any local zoning authority.”

The bill also would allow municipalities to pass ordinances removing specific development zones in smart growth areas from the expedited permit process within a year of the Act’s effective date.

The bill also would clarify that no portion of the Highlands Region or the Pinelands Area is eligible for expedited permits and states that all of its provisions must be crafted to avoid jeopardizing any federal funds available to New Jersey.

“It’s absolutely wrong to suggest the Act would allow developers to lay sewer lines in areas not zoned for growth,” Senator Sweeney said. An OLS legal opinion of June 9th also backs the law’s proposed method of dispute resolution as constitutional and balanced and based on an awareness that permit applicants are waiving normal rights of appeal.

“I stand ready to hold hearings on this bill whenever we can,” Senator Sweeney said. “I am not dissuaded one iota by the extended moratorium because I believe a workable Smart Growth Law is a responsibility we owe to our children and their children and all those who have to live with the future we give them.”


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