With Release of Impact Assessment, State Plan Poised for Revision, Re-adoption
January 29th, 2010 by Peter Kasabach
- The State Planning Act requires the State Planning Commission to revise and re-adopt the State Development and Redevelopment Plan every three years. The act further requires that an Impact Assessment be prepared prior to each revision and re-adoption.
- Revision and re-adoption of the current State Plan, which was adopted in 2001, is now six years overdue. The commission approved a draft interim plan in 2009, and has now received and released the required Impact Assessment.
- The assessment found that following the State Plan would reduce water and sewer infrastructure costs to the state by $500 million, and save municipalities and school districts more than $100 million a year. It would also save 60,000 acres of land that would otherwise be developed from 2008 to 2028.
- The State Planning Commission awaits approval from the Christie administration to advance the draft State Plan. One of the administration’s key transition teams has recommended strengthening the authority of the Commission, allowing it to update the State Plan in a manner that coordinates the capital investment priorities and regulatory regimes of state agencies.
Assessment Builds Economic Case for Center-Based Development, Gives Christie Opportunity to Re-energize State Planning
The Impact Assessment quantifies the savings, in both land and money, that the state might derive from managing future growth according to the “center-based” strategies of the State Plan. The assessment identified 560 miles of local roadways and half a billion dollars’ worth of water and sewer infrastructure costs New Jersey would forgo over the next 20 years by following the principles of the State Plan. It would also reduce service costs to municipalities and school districts by an estimated $116 million annually.
Comparing the scenario of following the State Plan to past development trends, the assessment illustrates that infrastructure and many services are cheaper to provide, on a per-capita basis, in the more compact center-based development pattern envisioned by the State Plan. (For more on the benefits of compact development, see New Jersey Future’s report Race to the Middle.
The 60,000 acres of land saved by adhering to the State Plan would include 17,000 acres of the agricultural lands that help rank New Jersey as a leading producer of a surprisingly wide variety of fruits and vegetables. At the recent rate of 15,000 acres of new development per year, the total land savings translate to a 20 percent reduction in land consumption over the next 20 years.
Steering new growth into already-developed centers can also help revitalize cities and towns that have suffered from decades’ worth of neglect. Developing under the State Plan scenario is estimated to increase the number of jobs by more than 10 percent in urban and inner-suburban communities that presently find themselves on the losing end of a cycle of creeping distress, resulting from growth policies that favor greenfield development over redevelopment.
With the release of the Impact Assessment, the State Planning Commission is in a position to move ahead with the long-delayed revision and re-adoption of the State Plan. All that remains is the green light from the Christie administration. And Governor Christie is on record in support of a strengthened state planning process, pledging to improve interagency coordination, discourage suburban sprawl and provide incentives for redevelopment and urban revitalization.
In fact, the governor’s Economic Growth Transition Team recommended a bold step in this direction: “Reconstitute and elevate the State Planning Commission and appoint a cabinet-level Executive Director with the charge directly from the Governor to support the Lt. Governor in working with the Commissioners to update the State Plan in a manner that breaks down the ‘silos’ between their respective (and often contradictory) capital investment priorities and regulatory regimes.” This action would give the State Planning Commission and its staff the tools not only to revise and re-adopt the State Plan, but to see its principles reflected—and implemented—in state policy.