Zoned for Development
July 10th, 2000 by Tim Evans
Zoning and Communities
- New Jersey’s most densely populated community is Union City, with 45,000 people per square mile — a higher density than Brooklyn or Queens.
- Our least densely populated community is Walpack Township, near the Delaware Water Gap, with only 2.9 people per square mile.
- Nearly every inch of New Jersey — with the exception of some protected parklands — is zoned for future development.
New Jerseyans love their small towns and open spaces, and most of the debate about how New Jersey should grow focuses on where growth should occur. But how growth happens is just as important. And “how” is largely in the hands of local zoning ordinances.
New Jersey is zoned for development, not conservation — and largely single-use development. The traffic impacts alone of these uncounted housing units, office parks and shopping malls will be staggering. Some communities, in an effort to preserve their last open spaces, have zoned their open lands for large lots with extensive setbacks, keeping shops and offices distant from residences. Ironically, these regulations are the enemies of community building and of open space conservation. They are the antithesis of smart growth.
Preserving the best of today’s communities requires zoning for higher density in some places, and lowering densities in others. Despite the sometimes emotional rhetoric around such decisions, there are strong community benefits both ways. Local officials with the foresight and courage to tackle the “how” need strong support from the state in making the zoning decisions that will preserve and enhance the best of today’s community life. A recent proposal by Senator John Adler (D-Cherry Hill) would make the state a partner to communities sued by developers when the community master plan and zoning is consistent with the State Plan.
Where we grow will mean little unless and until our municipalities address how.
Do you have comments or questions about these Facts and Issues? Contact us directly:
B. Tim Evans, NJF Research Director