|About the Author: Joseph Maraziti is a partner in the Short Hills, NJ law firm of Maraziti, Falcon & Healey LLP. He represents clients regarding redevelopment and environmental legal matters. He served as Chair of the New Jersey State Planning Commission for four years.|
Since the adoption of the New Jersey State Development and Redevelopment Plan just over ten years ago, a number of major government initiatives have sent the message that real estate development in the Garden State will largely take place in already established cites and towns, rather than in the remaining fields, farms and forests in the most densely populated state.
A quick review of these multifaceted efforts to preserve open space and farmland tells the story:
Highlands Area Preservation:
More than 850,000 in the northwest area of the state designated for restricted redevelopment in order to protect the water resources that serve about half New Jersey’s population.
One Million Acres for Open Space and Farmland Preservation:
In response to a proposal by then Governor Whitman, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum to borrow one billion dollars in ten years to acquire one million acres to for open space and farmland preservation. That effort has not yet reached the goal, but hundreds of thousands of acres have already been taken off the “development table”.
Category One Stream Buffers:
Buffers 300 hundred feet wide on each side of the many Category One Streams identified by the state are also off limits for development. Most, but not all, of these high quality water bodies are located in largely rural areas. Thus a swath 600 feet wide along these streams will never be developed.
Open Space Trust Funds:
Municipalities and Counties all over the state have adopted laws to raise monies for land preservation purposes that are funded through dedicated real estate taxes. Hundreds of thousands of acres have been preserved though these acquisitions.
Non Profit Preservation Programs:
In addition to the many governmental acquisition efforts, private capital raised by many environmental non profit organizations in the state has been used to preserve land through the use of innovative easement and other use restriction mechanisms.
The obvious upshot of all these efforts to preserve the landscape of New Jersey is that the future growth and development of the state will be driven by the process to redevelop and revitalize the already developed areas of the state. Thus the real estate investment opportunities will be in the places like Jersey City, Hoboken, Morristown, New Brunswick, Long Branch and Perth Amboy, to name only a few. Locations along rail corridors – especially Mid Town Direct – will be especially attractive places to invest in residential and commercial projects.
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