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Post-Sandy Recovery: Balancing Regional Planning With Home Rule

July 23rd, 2013 by

This is the second in a two-part article from our partner NJ Spotlight detailing the issues with which planners and advocates are grappling as they struggle to restore and remake the Jersey Shore. NJ Spotlight partner WNYC/NJPR contributed to this article.

New Jersey Future’s Chris Sturm is participating in an open online conversation with some of these experts to discuss challenges and strategies.

U.S. Air Force photo of Sandy damage to the Jersey Shore.

U.S. Air Force photo of Sandy damage to the Jersey Shore.

The devastation wrought by Sandy is both local and regional. Strictly top-down or bottom-up solutions are not likely to serve.

Toms River Township Planner Jay Lynch likes to show visitors his framed certificate from the American Institute of Certified Planners that’s hanging on a wall in the corner of his office. It’s Professional Planner license No.19, which he claims is the lowest number still practicing in the state. His coworkers sometimes tease him that this means he’s really old, but he sees it as a badge of honor, a testament to his wealth of experience.

Over the past 50 years, Lynch says he’s heard the growing calls by environmentalists for people and development to move away from the most vulnerable areas of the coast, places like Seaside Heights, Mantoloking and Ortley Beach. Those calls have intensified in the aftermath of Sandy. But Lynch sees them as premature. “I think it’s too early to retreat. It’s too early to bail out,” he says. “I’m not sure whether anybody could even figure out an economic solution to retreating at this point. There’s a lot of property value out there, and you can’t just tell people they can’t use their property. You can’t deny building permits unless you compensate. I don’t think pragmatically that there’s a way to do a strategic retreat.”

But it isn’t simply a question of retreat or restore. What decisions are made and where they are made are among the thorniest issues facing planners looking to reinvent the shore. New Jersey has a strong tradition of “home rule,” in which communities decide key issues for themselves. It may help explain why the concept of shared services never really caught on.

Read more at NJ Spotlight: Post-Sandy Recovery: Balancing Regional Planning with Home Rule

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