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New Jersey Future, Other Groups Urge Veto of ‘Meadowlands Bill’

February 4th, 2015 by

The New Jersey Turnpike as it passes over the Meadowlands. Photo source: flickr user illinigardner

The New Jersey Turnpike as it passes over the Meadowlands. Photo source: flickr user illinigardner

On Jan. 22, 2015, New Jersey Future, along with 10 other partner organizations, filed detailed comments on identical bills A3969/S2647, the so-called “Meadowlands bill,” urging Gov. Christie to veto the legislation and offering to work with the Legislature to craft a bill that would address concerns about current Meadowlands governance without putting past protections and successes at risk.

The groups’ objections to the bill focused on four key concerns:

  • The bill would eliminate of one of the most successful examples of regional planning and cooperation in the country. The Meadowlands Commission has been an excellent regional steward, carefully balancing the need for growth and development with the need for conservation and preservation of the environmentally unique and fragile Meadowlands. Now there is no entity responsible for that protection, and the regional tax-sharing arrangement that underlay the commission’s work risks being replaced by public subsidies. For a state that is so concerned about high property taxes, this is exactly the wrong policy direction.
  • The bill would open the door to confusing layers of red tape in zoning and development decisions, while not ensuring that development proposals be consistent with the Meadowlands master plan. In fact, the legislation’s wording makes it extremely unclear as to who would have review authority, which creates great uncertainty for those interested in investing and developing in the Meadowlands.
  • The bill would put state taxpayers on the hook for subsidizing towns in the Meadowlands. A new hotel tax will generate revenue that in theory will be shared with some of the towns, but if enough money is not generated by the tax, then the state government is required to make up the difference.
  • The bill would jeopardize Liberty State Park. The new entity created by the legislation is given authority for planning, implementation and management of projects in the park, and will perhaps even control project approval – again, the legislation is unclear – thus removing control of a state park from the state Dept. of Environmental Protection, which has had, and should rightly have, jurisdiction.

Read the full comments (pdf).

Update: On Feb. 5, 2015, Gov. Christie signed the bill while acknowledging its shortcomings, which the bill’s authors promised to address.

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