Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces

 

New Jersey Future Blogrss

New Jersey Future Welcomes Four New Trustees

May 6th, 2020 by Missy Rebovich


New Jersey Future’s Board of Trustees welcomed four new members:

Laureen Boles, founder and president of E4Progress, joins the board after serving as the executive director of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance. Boles has focused her career on public-private partnerships on green infrastructure, renewable energy, climate change, environmental justice, green jobs, and transit-oriented development. “New Jersey Future’s commitment to creating great places for everyone to live, work, and play, make me excited to join the Board. It is more important than ever to support efforts to integrate communities, which will make them healthier and stronger.”   

Christopher Brown, director of community development for the City of Hoboken, oversees the city’s redevelopment and master planning, zoning office, land use boards, affordable housing, Community Development Block Grant Program, and various other community development initiatives such as the 2020 Census and the City’s Homelessness Task Force. Chris has volunteered in previous years with the American Planning Association-New Jersey Chapter, as well as the Planning Accreditation Board. “New Jersey Future is a leading advocate for holistic and equitable, urban revitalization within the State of New Jersey, whether through advocating for sustainable infrastructure investments, promoting targeted tax credits, or helping towns plan for resilience. I am honored to be joining the Board.”

Kenneth EsserKenneth Esser, senior vice president and chief of staff of corporate services, governance and government relations at Hackensack Meridian Health, leads the external relations strategy for the hospital. He previously developed strategies and programs that helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions for PSE&G. He also served as chief energy advisor to Governor Jon Corzine. “New Jersey Future approaches growth holistically and encourages a culture of health, whether by advocating for complete and green streets, lead-free water systems or reduced transportation emissions. It’s an honor to work with an organization that promotes healthy communities for residents and businesses alike.”

Todd Gomez, North Region market executive for Community Development Banking at Bank of America, leads a team that provides financing solutions to developers of affordable multifamily housing in the Northeast and Midwest. In addition to a 25 year career in affordable housing finance, Todd previously served as the chief financial officer for the Chicago Housing Authority. “New Jersey Future has been an advocate for inclusive communities that make space for every person and where they all can thrive. Making sure that my New Jersey neighbors have adequate infrastructure and safe, affordable housing is critical to this mission and I look forward to supporting this work.”

 

Urban Comeback in New Jersey

May 5th, 2020 by Tim Evans

New Jersey Future has always paid attention to population changes in the state.  Where are people living?  Where are they moving to and from? And what is driving these changes?  Today, we add another variable for why people may choose to move—the consequences of a global pandemic on where people live and work. We will need to wait for more data to see if the pandemic has affected these decisions.There are other important population trends that form a backdrop for what the future will bring.  Today we highlight one of those very recent trends.  

Slow Growth Transitions to Loss

In 2019, something happened in New Jersey that hadn’t happened since the 1970s: the state experienced a year-to-year population loss, with total population declining by 0.04 percent, or 3,835 residents, between 2018 and 2019. With the Census Bureau’s recent release of 2019 county population estimates, it is now possible to get a look at which parts of the state are contributing to New Jersey’s overall population loss.

The losses are happening all over the state. Only six of New Jersey’s 21 counties gained population last year—Ocean, Burlington, Hudson, Essex, Gloucester, and Camden (in descending order of percent increase)—although even most of these were very small gains. Ocean County was effectively an outlier, gaining 5,708 residents compared to 2018, for a 0.95 percent increase. Burlington was a distant second with an increase of 604 (+ 0.14 percent); the other four counties’ growth rates were all less than 0.1 percent.

Is the Urban Comeback Losing Steam? (Answer: Not in New Jersey)

From too great a distance, it might be tempting to attribute New Jersey’s population loss to a (supposed) national trend away from cities, a trend that is both overstated and based on imprecise use of geography.  New Jersey is indeed the most urbanized state in the country, and its population is dominated by “suburbs” of two of the country’s largest cities, New York and Philadelphia. Sixteen of New Jersey’s 21 counties—comprising 89 percent of its population—fall within either the New York or Philadelphia metropolitan areas, and the other five comprise or are components of smaller metros. If there were a movement away from urban areas, New Jersey certainly seems like the sort of place where such a movement would manifest itself.

But looking at a finer level of geography, New Jersey illustrates that the fate of a metropolitan area’s largest city and the fate of other parts of that metro area are not necessarily the same. Yes, New York City has now lost population for three years in a row, and this year, all five boroughs (each of which is its own county) lost population. (Staten Island, aka Richmond County, had been the lone borough that was still gaining population up through 2018.) This is indeed a dramatic turnaround from earlier in the decade, when New York was a poster child for the nation’s urban revival that started around the end of last decade. Between 2010 and 2015, New York’s annual population gains averaged 57,604, for a total gain of 288,000 people for the first half of the decade. Between 2015 and 2019, in contrast, the average annual change has been a loss of 31,558, for a total loss of 126,000 people since 2015.  New York appears to be becoming a victim of its own success, with high housing costs driving longtime residents away and with fewer and fewer households who can afford to move in from elsewhere to replace them.

However, the problems affecting New York City are not necessarily also affecting the rest of the New York metropolitan area, or even its other big cities.  Among New Jersey’s handful of counties that bucked the trend and gained population between 2018 and 2019 were Hudson and Essex, the state’s two most densely populated counties and home to Jersey City and Newark, respectively. The North Jersey urban core counties (Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, Essex, and Union) have been the state’s growth engine for the past decade, as members of the Millennial generation have expressed their preference for compact, walkable cities, towns, and older suburban downtowns, so it is not surprising to see two of those counties among the few in the state that are still gaining people. It is probably also not an accident that Hudson and Essex are two of the top three immigrant-destination counties in the state (Middlesex is the third). Whatever the causes of New Jersey’s overall population loss — and the national drop in immigration is certainly one of them — those losses are mitigated by still-robust levels of immigration in Hudson and Essex.

More evidence against the “big cities are declining” theory can be found to the south, in Philadelphia and its South Jersey suburbs.  The three suburban Philadelphia counties—Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester—that make up half of New Jersey’s six still-growing counties are following a pattern that holds throughout the Philadelphia metropolitan area. The city of Philadelphia (which constitutes its own county) and all four of its suburban counties in Pennsylvania (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery) also gained population from 2018 to 2019. Philadelphia has gained population every year this decade, although the increases in the last two years have been considerably smaller than they were earlier in the decade. (Salem County is also part of the Philadelphia metro but is considerably more rural and has been losing population steadily all decade, similar to the rest of far southern New Jersey—Cumberland, Atlantic, and Cape May counties.) The Philadelphia area stands in distinct contrast to New York in this regard, although perhaps not for long, if the last two years of much slower growth are a harbinger of a coming reversal in Philadelphia, as has happened in New York.

No “Return to the Suburbs”

Meanwhile, among the types of places that the national storyline posits as the beneficiaries of urban stagnation — suburban and exurban counties — most are also losing population in North Jersey.  And it’s not just the more urbanized inner-suburban counties like Bergen, Passaic, and Union.  In fact, the losses are larger, in percentage terms, in the more stereotypical car-oriented suburban counties of Morris, Somerset, and Monmouth, and in the exurban fringe of Sussex, Warren, and Hunterdon. So much for the “return to the suburbs” narrative.

The one notable exception is Ocean County, which is unusual in being the only county in New Jersey that is actually experiencing a net gain from domestic migration during this decade. That is, Ocean is the only county for which it is true that more people have moved into the county from elsewhere in the United States (including elsewhere in New Jersey) since 2010 than have moved out of the county to other parts of the state or country.  Of Ocean County’s total increase of just more than 30,000 people since 2010, more than half—a little more than 18,000— has been from net domestic in-migration. Ocean County attracts very few international immigrants compared to other New Jersey counties, so it really is domestic in-migrants who are driving the county’s growth, which is not true anywhere else in the state.  The county’s status as a retirement destination, and the role of rapidly-growing Lakewood (the county’s largest population center, and the seventh most populous municipality in the state) as a magnet for the Orthodox Jewish community, are likely responsible.

Multiple Factors Converging

As New Jersey Future’s analysis of state population changes earlier this year observed, the state’s population loss is a product of several factors layered on top of one another.  Net domestic out-migration continues to be a problem, but it has not gotten appreciably worse in the last few years.  Rather, declines in international immigration and natural increase (births minus deaths) are throwing the underlying domestic outflow into sharper relief.  New Jersey could formerly rely on those other two components of population change to mask losses of migrants to other states, but the national dropoffs in those other two components are now exposing the state’s ongoing difficulties in attracting and retaining young adults. If Millennials keep leaving the state because they can’t afford to stay here, this year’s small but geographically widespread population losses may portend a longer-term decline.

Aging-friendly housing options: A case study

May 5th, 2020 by New Jersey Future staff

Author: Tom Kozma

As baby boomers retire and young people look to start their careers, it is becoming apparent that many New Jersey towns don’t have the variety of housing options necessary to meet the needs of all their residents. While single family homes can be a great fit for many families, older generations might find them unnecessarily expensive or difficult to maintain. As part of its Creating Great Places to Age program, New Jersey Future has been researching strategies that dozens of municipalities in New Jersey have implemented to provide a more diverse housing stock. Having examples of successful local strategies will demonstrate possible paths other towns can take to meet the needs of their residents and develop great communities.

In line with national trends, in one decade the 65+ age cohort will grow to one in five New Jerseyans. Survey results from the AARP show most older adults want to stay in their current homes and communities as long as possible (76% and 77%, respectively), but many see obstacles ahead. At least half of respondents see walkable and affordable neighborhoods that make it easy to connect with their community through volunteering, social events, and flexible jobs as vital. Unfortunately, the built environment often makes this difficult. The Creating Great Places to Age program seeks to encourage strategies that make these desirable neighborhoods possible.

Form-based codes are one of the most promising strategies. Such codes are a revolution in the traditional theory of zoning, which focuses on dividing areas in towns into separate uses. A form-based code instead regulates the density and design of buildings. This allows developers to mix homes and civic buildings with retail businesses and offices in an aesthetically pleasing way. In a way, it ensures the purpose of zoning is to promote public health and development without micromanaging every lot. Compared to making minor tweaks in a zoning code, that’s revolutionary.

Beginning in 2005, the town of Newton, a small town of under ten thousand people, held focus groups with active citizens to come up with a vision plan for their town’s future. The residents came up with a strategic vision that aligns with many of the principles of smart growth and pedestrian-oriented development. They envisioned a tight-knit town both socially and physically, centered on a unique mixed-use downtown. In 2008, the town adopted its first major update to its master plan in over a decade. This plan called for a dual approach of redevelopment and historic preservation.

A few years later in 2012, Newton completely overhauled its zoning code into a form-based code. Instead of traditional zoning districts, it uses Transect Zones ranging from preserved natural space to the town core. These zones guide developers in what level of density the town is looking for in a specific area. This development pattern more closely resembles the way in which some small towns evolved before comprehensive zoning laws swept the country, before the proliferation of cars. 

Form-based codes are a great strategy for towns with vibrant downtowns, as the mix of uses encourages activity and economic growth. Municipalities throughout New Jersey have adopted form-based codes, such as Hammonton in 2011 and Dover in 2006, for the whole town and the downtown area respectively.

There are other tools available for towns that still keep the basic principles of traditional use-based zoning. Many towns are allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also known as granny flats or in-law apartments. These small self-contained living spaces share a parcel with a main house. ADUs can be attached to the main building, detached, part of a garage, or set up in other ways. They can be permitted with certain conditions, such as requiring that either the main or accessory unit be occupied by the property owner.  When done in a way that’s consistent with existing neighborhood design, ADUs can be a great strategy to increase density while still allowing towns to maintain their desired character or keep their small-town feel.

More towns are allowing ADUs in some form, but policies differ among towns. Some towns in New York, for example, allow them only in limited circumstances, or restrict them to low-income older residents. In many cases, these units are a way for towns to meet their state obligations to build affordable housing. By integrating these affordable units with market-rate units, older residents are themselves integrated with the rest of the local residents. Sometimes, the town heavily subsidizes the construction of ADUs to make them a more attractive option for people with lower incomes. 

For example, several municipalities in Hunterdon County amended their code to allow temporary ADUs designated for older residents—also known as Elder Cottage Housing Opportunities (ECHO)—in all single-family zones. A similar ordinance adopted in Washington Township in Morris County subsidizes the construction of several tiny homes on rural lots. These mobile houses, no more than 300 square feet, are reserved for veterans as transitional housing. 

Whether taking a giant leap or a small step, there are New Jersey towns that have taken action. New Jersey faces the dual challenge of meeting the needs of an aging population and the needs of young people leaving the state; the high cost of housing is a key cause of the latter and will make the former a much more difficult transition. Making New Jersey work for everyone depends on having a myriad of housing strategies. 

NJ Stay-at-Home Order is Reducing GHG Emissions

April 15th, 2020 by Tim Evans


New Jerseyans are staying at home — and reducing greenhouse gas emissions

No carsOn March 21st, the order went out to the whole state of New Jersey: Stay at home to the greatest extent possible. The order meant to help suppress the spread of the COVID-19 virus by minimizing person-to-person contact. New Jersey was one of the earliest states in the nation to issue statewide school-closing and stay-at-home orders, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which has been tracking state government efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

New Jersey’s citizens have risen to the challenge. According to the traffic data analysis consultant INRIX, which has been monitoring the decline in travel volumes across the country in response to states’ physical-distancing orders, New Jersey is #1 in staying at home, notching a 63 percent drop in statewide personal vehicle travel as of last week, when compared to the baseline week of February 22nd.

Obviously, a major component in achieving such a dramatic reduction in vehicular travel is having as many people as possible work from home. New Jersey was not previously a national leader in telecommuting; as of the 2017 one-year American Community Survey, only 4.6 percent of employed New Jersey residents worked at home, compared to 5.2 percent nationally, and far behind Colorado, Oregon, and Vermont, all of which have rates exceeding 7 percent. In a sense, New Jersey had more room for improvement on this score than a lot of other states.

One side benefit of all of this non-driving is cleaner air, thanks to fewer cars on the road. Whether it’s drone footage of virtually empty streets in Philadelphia, or a dashboard-cam cruise around some of New York’s iconic (and now-deserted) streets and intersections, or stories about blue skies over famously-smoggy Los Angeles or Delhi, India or major Chinese cities, popular media outlets are enjoying pointing out what major cities look like when stripped of their traffic and the pollution it creates.

Besides producing fewer particulate pollutants of the kind that result in smog, the big drop in car travel also means less CO2 is being pumped into the atmosphere. This point is less obvious from photographic and video evidence, since CO2 doesn’t visibly make the air dirtier, isn’t directly harmful to breathe, and is not what many people traditionally think of as a “pollutant.”

But CO2 is the most plentiful of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that trap heat in the atmosphere and lead to climate change and sea-level rise, which pose particular risks to coastal states like New Jersey.  And the transportation sector accounts for the biggest share of total GHG emissions, both nationally, where it contributes 29 percent of all GHG emissions, and in New Jersey, where it is responsible for an even higher 42 percent of the total. Most transportation emissions are a byproduct of moving people and things from one place to another, mainly by car and truck.

Reducing vehicle-miles traveled (VMT)—the amount of driving being done by all those cars and trucks—is thus an important strategy for reducing GHG emissions. A land-use approach to reducing VMT entails building things closer together, reducing the distances required to travel among destinations. It means creating more compact, walkable, mixed-use and transit-connected places, where some trips can be taken on foot or by public transit, and where trip distances are shorter for trips that are still taken by car.

Working from home is also, as the INRIX data illustrate, an effective strategy for reducing VMT. When home and work—the two most frequently visited destinations for the average employed person—are merged into the same physical location, the distance required to travel between them is reduced to zero. Consider that if every regular car commuter in New Jersey were able to work from home just one day a week, this would cut work-related VMT—and its associated GHG emissions—by 20 percent. This would amount to a reduction in GHG emissions equivalent to having 20 percent of the workforce commuting in electric vehicles, which right now remains a highly aspirational and ambitious goal.

Electrifying 20 percent of the vehicle fleet is not going to happen overnight. But New Jersey has achieved, practically overnight, an even more dramatic reduction in vehicular emissions. It can be done, and we did it without changing anything about the vehicle fleet or the road network. Of course, this dramatic reduction has happened as a consequence of a broader containment effort that has imposed significant economic costs and significant disruptions to people’s daily lives. But when the immediate COVID-19 danger has receded and things begin to return to normal, it is worth discussing how much of our normal work-related VMT is really necessary, after all.

It is worth discussing how much of each person’s work actually needs to be done on site, and how much can be done remotely. It is worth discussing how many staff meetings require everyone to be in the office and how many could be conducted via video conferencing apps, the use of which has experienced meteoric growth compared to pre-pandemic levels. It is worth discussing how much of our economic output could potentially continue to chug along without nearly so much driving.  Besides fostering more compact, walkable land development patterns and electrifying vehicle fleets, telecommuting deserves a serious look as a longer-term GHG reduction strategy.

With the Parks Closed, Now is the Time to Open the Streets

April 15th, 2020 by Missy Rebovich

woman walking dog Nearly every medical expert offers, among others, the same two pieces of advice for coping with stress, anxiety, and depression: exercise and go outside. These two activities have significant benefits to both physical and mental health–something we could all use during this time of pandemic.

New Jersey has ordered all non-essential businesses, including gyms, to close, making the outdoors a natural solution for exercise and casual recreation. Students can replace gym class and recess with a lap around the block or a nature walk. Running and biking require little equipment, but they do require space. With more people choosing to be outside–whether for exercise, alone time, walking the dog, or picking up dinner–social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19 grows increasingly difficult to practice.

Our state and county parks have been ordered to close in an effort to reduce crowding on trails and in outdoor spaces where social distancing has not been practiced. People who have relied on these spaces to maintain physical and emotional health are now forced back to local sidewalks. Sidewalks are rarely more than 4’ wide, making social distancing impossible if passing someone walking in the opposite direction. 

Cities like Philadelphia, OaklandDenver, and Minneapolis have embraced a solution that allows residents to go outside while practicing social distancing: opening streets to pedestrians and cyclists

New Jersey saw a 63% drop in personal travel use from March 28 to April 3 when compared to a typical week, but this doesn’t mean our streets are safer. In fact, early data suggests that the rate of car accidents has actually increased despite there being fewer cars on the road.

Now is the perfect time for cities to experiment with complete streets practices such as protected bike lanes, trails, and greenways  that prioritize pedestrians and cyclists to keep our streets safe for everyone. 

Looking to New Jersey’s Future

April 9th, 2020 by Peter Kasabach

Creating strong, healthy, resilient communities

Dear Friends,

As we continue to face crisis and uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can draw strength and knowledge from its emerging lessons.

For one, we are learning just how important and central “places” are to our lives. It might be the woods or neighborhood park where we go to escape alone for a few minutes or the bike path where we exercise with our family. It might be our child’s beloved community playground, our downtown square, or our favorite boardwalk along the beach that are currently off limits. It might be the street that we walk our dog down, wave to neighbors from, or hustle along to pick up essential goods. For many of us, it is the homes that we live in and the rooms that we have had to rethink and rearrange, which now double as our schools, offices, and play spaces.

We shape our places today and then they shape us forever. Every day we are revisiting our relationship with the spaces and places we have grown accustomed to and that have made us who we are—home, work, neighborhood, places to play and to be entertained. What made these places work for us before and how will our relationship to them change in a post COVID-19 world? How can we use the lessons learned and the new perspectives gained? How can we emerge stronger and more just?

In the coming weeks, we will be sharing with you the lessons that we are learning on how we can move from crisis to recovery while making New Jersey an even better place. And we look forward to working with you to turn those lessons into powerful new policies and practice that will make New Jersey stronger.

New Jersey Future has a history of helping communities emerge stronger from crises. We were there after Superstorm Sandy, taking the lead at every level of government in helping communities rebuild and become more resilient. We were there to address the recent crisis of lead in New Jersey drinking water, making our state’s communities healthier and safer. And we will be there during the COVID-19 recovery, leading efforts to create strong, healthy, resilient communities for everyone.

In strength and community,

Pete Kasabach signature

Peter Kasabach
Executive Director

 

P.S. It’s more important than ever to stay connected. We’ll be updating njfuture.org regularly with important information and resources. Make sure you’re getting our newsletters and following us on social media. Please encourage others to do so as well. Above all, stay healthy and safe.

New Jersey Future and NJDEP release report of local options and actions for resilience

March 13th, 2020 by Missy Rebovich

report coverNew Jersey’s coastal communities are already experiencing the impacts of rising seas, erosion, and coastal storms, including property damage, loss of property value, and declines in municipal tax revenues. These 239 coastal communities are home to over 4.6 million people, which represents more than 52 percent of the state’s total population. Action is needed to protect these towns and the people who call them home. But what kind of action? 

New Jersey Future analyzed 350 innovative strategies applied in 76 cities or regions that could serve as model initiatives to develop the 15 strategies detailed in the Local Options/Local Actions: Resilience Strategies Case Studies report for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). 

The strategies are organized into six categories–planning, regulatory, ecological, economic, social, and communications/outreach/education–to provide an accessible and comprehensive menu of options for local officials. No single strategy will yield resilience, and climate risks will fluctuate over time. For this reason, the report recommends local officials consider combinations of strategies tailored for their communities while preparing to pivot to new strategies as risks evolve and risk levels change. 

Confronting climate risks can be uncomfortable for local officials and residents to address, but failing to do so will only perpetuate the flood-rebuild-flood practice that puts people and property back in harm’s way without considering future risks. This report can act as a starting point for these discussions and guide towns toward a path of resilient development, fostering safe, healthy, and prosperous communities for generations to come.

Smart Growth Gets Smarter

March 11th, 2020 by New Jersey Future staff

Redevelopment Forum 2020 Highlights: Equity Health Resilience

“Places are more than a town or a city. Places surge lifelong through our bloodstreams. Places are a great unifier. Places help shape our dreams and desires. Places give us so much more of what is required to breathe free and live, live ever higher. Place is so much more than an ‘X’ on a map.” –Pandora Scooter, spoken word artist and Redevelopment Forum performer.

Redevelopment Forum 2020How can we plan smarter and more equitably? These were the important questions considered at New Jersey Future’s 15th annual redevelopment forum. More than 500 planners, developers, local and state officials, and other professionals joined New Jersey Future in New Brunswick at the March 6 day-long conference to look at current redevelopment trends and hear from thought leaders in the field. In his welcome, New Jersey Future Board of Trustees Chair President Peter Reinhart spoke about the evolution of smart growth. Today, all aspects of a redevelopment project and its impact on the community must be considered, with special focus on health, resiliency, and equity. Reinhart urged forum attendees to “keep the big picture of redevelopment in mind and ask yourself how you can play a role in ensuring New Jersey’s redevelopment is the smartest and most inclusive it can be.”

Health

The morning plenary, Building Healthy Communities, featured panelists from various planning-related fields who examined ways in which the built environment impacts the health of the people within it. Moderator Giridhar Mallya, Senior Policy Officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, led the panelists in a discussion on how transportation, lack of affordable housing, lead in water, and climate change are impacting health, demonstrating the critical importance of incorporating a culture of health approach into redevelopment planning and implementation.

Morning Plenary

Morning plenary, Giridhar Mallya, Dr. Adrienne Hollis, Nick Sifuentes, Staci Berger, and Chris Sturm.

Climate scientist Dr. Adrienne Hollis of the Union of Concerned Scientists noted that climate change is a public health emergency with serious impacts experienced in environmental justice communities “first and worst.” New Jersey Future’s Managing Director for Policy and Water, Chris Sturm, discussed a plan to remove lead in New Jersey drinking water over the next decade, stemming from the work of the Jersey Water Works Lead in Drinking Water Task Force. This work was also discussed in a lead-focused morning breakout session moderated by New Jersey Future’s Policy Manager Gary Brune. Nick Sifuentes, Executive Director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, and Staci Berger, President and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, shared the importance of access to transit and safe, affordable housing to the health of individuals and communities.

Resilience
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe spoke to forum attendees about the threat of rising sea levels and the steps New Jersey is taking under Governor Murphy’s administration to combat and adapt to climate change, including the signing of two executive orders, emphasizing “if you know what to plan for, you can adapt to it.” Mentioning the effects of sea level rise in his own hometown of Annapolis, President of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute and former governor of Maryland, Parris Glendening spoke in his keynote address about climate change and inequity as two of the greatest threats to our future, warning that “we will face both economic and humanitarian crises if we do not start to address (these issues) in a more focused and in a more effective way.” One afternoon breakout session looked at ways in which communities can make transportation, energy, and water systems resilient, and at redesigning these systems to take advantage of new technologies and changing community needs, much like the Gateway Master Plan in the Tampa Bay area.

luncheon keynote

Governor Parris Glendening, keynote speaker.

Equity
Using redevelopment to achieve more equitable communities was a prominent theme throughout this year’s forum. Equity was a significant feature of the plenary discussion on climate change, infrastructure investment, and affordable housing, and it was in Governor Glendening’s urging of everyone to consider whether each policy reduces or expands inequality, to ensure that people’s lives are not made worse by redevelopment decisions. Equity was the focus of a breakout session on redevelopment strategies to achieve equity, and it was a large part of a session on place-based economic development in downtowns. New Jersey Future Executive Director Peter Kasabach highlighted equity in his remarks, receiving a round of applause in acknowledging “we need to break down segregation in this state and recognize diversity is one of New Jersey’s greatest strengths and one of our most important assets.”

New Jersey Future has made it a priority to incorporate this year’s forum’s core concepts into all of its work. From combatting lead in drinking water, to promoting aging-friendly communities, to working on the State Plan, New Jersey Future aims to create healthy, equitable, and resilient communities where people want to live and work. We hope you will join us. Let’s grow smarter together, New Jersey.

It’s Official: NJDEP Amends State Stormwater Rules to Require Green Infrastructure

March 11th, 2020 by Louise Wilson

In a welcome and important step forward, long-awaited amendments to New Jersey’s stormwater management rules were published in the March 2, 2020 New Jersey Register. The new rule amendments, which take full effect March 2, 2021, require the use of green infrastructure. Green infrastructure refers to a set of stormwater management practices that use or mimic the natural water cycle to capture, filter, absorb and/or re-use stormwater. Access the newly codified Stormwater Management Rules and NJDEP’s FAQ page.

This rule change signals a paradigm shift in New Jersey stormwater management. It replaces a subjective performance standard with an objective standard, and requires that stormwater management features be distributed around a site rather than centralized in one big basin.

What’s the big deal? Stormwater is a big problem, made increasingly worse by climate change and its weather extremes. Stormwater causes flooding and pollutes the streams, lakes and rivers in which we wade, swim, boat and fish. By most estimates, well over 90% of New Jersey’s waterways are polluted. While the new rule does not change underlying standards for water quality, it will result in more stormwater soaking into the earth, and that’s a good thing.

More can and should be done to prevent pollution and reduce flooding. New Jersey Future is working with other stakeholders and NJDEP to formulate additional rule changes aimed at strengthening standards for water quality and stormwater volume control. Meanwhile, we believe the green infrastructure requirement not only will result in more effective stormwater management, but also will confer important societal, public health and economic co-benefits and help communities become more climate resilient.

Interested to know more?
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How do the new stormwater rules differ from the old rules?
The fundamental difference is that the new rules will require decentralized, distributed stormwater management practices that enable stormwater to infiltrate and more closely resemble the natural water cycle. These “best management practices” (BMPs) include vegetated swales, bioretention, green roofs, cisterns, wet ponds, infiltration basins and constructed wetlands. 

Here are some specific differences:

  • Replaces a subjective performance standard with an objective, math-based standard that requires the use of green infrastructure to meet water quality, quantity, and recharge standards. The rule includes tables showing which green infrastructure BMPs may be used to meet certain standards, and which BMPs may be used only with a variance.
  • The water quality standard will apply to “motor vehicle surface” — meaning, paved or unpaved roads, driveways, parking lots, etc. — instead of impervious surface. Consistent with current NJDEP practice, the water quality standard will not apply to impervious surfaces that are not used by vehicles.
  • The “major development” definition now includes “creation of one-quarter acre or more of ‘regulated motor vehicle surface’.”
  • Water quantity, quality, and groundwater recharge standards must be met in each drainage area on-site (unless they converge before leaving the property).
  • A groundwater mounding analysis is required for all infiltration BMPs, not just for recharge.
  • A deed notice for stormwater management measures, including green infrastructure, must be recorded and submitted to NJDEP before construction.
  • For cities with combined sewer systems (so-called CSS or CSO communities):
    • Water quality treatment is required for discharges into combined sewer systems
    • Water quantity control is required in tidal areas (except discharges directly into lower reach of major tidal water bodies)
    • Community basins, which will allow several properties in a CSS community to use a single large basin for quantity control, are allowed

Consult the amended stormwater rule and the BMP Manual for more detailed information.

Do the published stormwater rule amendments differ at all from what was proposed in December 2018?  If so, how?

The rules published on March 2, 2020 are substantively identical to what was proposed in December 2018. The published rules correct a minor typo, and clarify that manufactured treatment devices (MTDs) that meet the definition of green infrastructure may be used without a variance, while MTDs that do not meet the definition of green infrastructure may be used only with a variance.

Does my city or town have to update its stormwater ordinance?

Yes. Every municipality must update its stormwater ordinance to reflect and comply with the new rule language.

Can my local stormwater ordinance impose stricter requirements than are found in the new state stormwater rule?

Yes–local requirements can be stricter in some ways, for certain kinds of projects. In the preamble to its new model stormwater ordinance, NJDEP notes: “Under New Jersey Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permits (MS4), the stormwater program may also include Optional Measures (OMs), that prevent or reduce the pollution of the waters of the State. A municipality may choose these stronger or additional measures in order to address local water quality and flooding conditions as well as other environmental and community needs. For example, municipalities may choose to define “major development” with a smaller area of disturbance and/or smaller area of regulated impervious cover or regulated motor vehicle surface; apply stormwater requirements to both major and minor development; and/or require groundwater recharge, when feasible, in urban redevelopment areas.

Note: these kinds of higher standards can be applied only to nonresidential projects that go before the local planning board or zoning board of adjustment. Residential projects are governed by the Residential Site Improvement Standards (RSIS), which reference the current stormwater rule. Thus, residential projects subject to planning board or zoning board review must meet the state’s minimum standards, no more and no less. That said, some developers are willing to exceed the state’s minimum standards in the interest of environmental protection, return on investment, marketing, and/or other community interests. 

Will there be an organized effort to train professionals and practitioners who need to understand green infrastructure?

Yes.  NJDEP, Rutgers University, and the Watershed Institute will conduct training for design professionals and for those who construct, inspect and maintain green infrastructure BMPs. In addition, education and training likely will be available through other experts and interested parties — public sector and private sector — including NJ Society of Municipal Engineers, private engineering firms, ASLA-NJ, APA-NJ, and New Jersey Future.

The Best Is Yet To Come: New Jersey Future Helps Towns Become Great Places to Age

March 9th, 2020 by New Jersey Future staff

New Jersey Future recently held kickoff meetings in Pompton Lakes in Passaic County and Ridgefield Park in Bergen County as part of its Creating Great Places to Age program, which helps towns ensure that older residents can continue living in their communities and remain active, healthy, and engaged. 

Every day for the rest of the decade, 8,000 members of the Baby Boom generation will turn 65. Given their increasing number of aging residents, towns across the country should be including aging-friendly factors in local planning, such as housing affordability and diversity; transportation; walkability; and access to daily tasks,activities and socialization.

Pompton Lakes meeting.

Pompton Lakes meeting.

Land use is a critical factor in a town’s livability for people of all ages, but especially for older residents.. Through support from The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation, New Jersey Future is working with towns to conduct aging-friendly land use assessments and assist with local planning based on the results. As part of the assessment process, New Jersey Future analyzes a town’s downtown center, housing options, access to transportation, and supply of public spaces and amenities, and then provides recommendations for each in an Aging-Friendly Land Use Assessment report. 

Members of the Pompton Lakes and Ridgefield Park Aging-Friendly Land Use Steering Committees participated in their respective February and November kickoff meetings with New Jersey Future to learn about aging-friendly community building and begin the engagement component of the assessment process. The towns’ diverse steering committees are comprised of members from local and county government, community and senior groups, and from the professional fields of public health, engineering, and planning.

Wanaque Ave., Pompton Lakes NJ

Pompton Lakes and Ridgefield Park are suburban towns with populations of approximately 11,000 and 13,000, respectively. Both towns have well-defined mixed-use downtowns, which is typical of many of New Jersey’s older suburban towns that pre-date the rise of the automobile. Similar to New Jersey as a whole, over 25 percent of both towns’ residents are 55 and older. However, both towns are much more developed than the state as a whole. Pompton Lakes and Ridgefield Park are both nearly 100 percent built-out, meaning that almost all the land that can be built on has already been used. Pompton Lakes is currently working to support redevelopment projects and Ridgefield Park is working on a Master Plan update, making the time for New Jersey Future’s planning work with each town ideal. 

Pompton Lakes and Ridgefield Park are two of eight towns currently working with New Jersey Future in becoming more aging-friendly. Want to make your own community more aging-friendly? You can find resources on New Jersey Future’s page about creating great places to age.

© New Jersey Future, 16 W. Lafayette St. • Trenton, NJ 08608 • Phone: 609-393-0008 • Fax: 609-360-8478

Are you receiving our email newsletter?

  • Latest news on land-use policy issues
  • Research and reports
  • Upcoming events
  • Monthly

Click to subscribe