McGreevey smart-growth plan gives counties big role

But leading regional planning expert says proposal still falls short.

By: David Campbell
   Gov. James E. McGreevey unveiled further initiatives Friday under his smart-growth agenda that enlist the counties to help promote regional planning.
   But Dianne Brake, president of The Regional Planning Partnership and one of the architects of a proposal by the Central Jersey Transportation Forum to empower counties through Regional Action Plans, said the governor’s proposal falls short of solving regional planning woes.
   Speaking at the New Jersey Association of Counties’ Smart Growth Forum in New Brunswick, Gov. McGreevey proposed changes to the County Planning Act that would empower counties to serve as planning coordinators to help promote greater compatibility among state, county and local planning.
   "So many issues in our state, like traffic and stormwater and wastewater management, extend beyond the borders of our municipalities," Gov. McGreevey said. "That is why we need to empower counties to work with municipalities, the state and regional authorities to find regional solutions that best suit New Jersey."
   The proposed changed would authorize counties to designate "Developments of Regional Significance," by defining which types of projects will have substantial impacts on transportation, stormwater, wastewater, water supply, environmental resources or recreation systems, the Governor’s Office said.
   The proposed changes also would authorize counties to enter into cooperative agreements with municipalities and other counties for joint review of regionally significant developments.
   Ms. Brake said the governor’s proposal falls short of the Regional Action Plans proposal being developed by the Central Jersey Transportation Forum and piloted by Mercer County, and said she did not believe it will be effective.
   She said the proposed "Developments of Regional Significance" designation will not intervene early enough in development projects.
   "The obvious downfall is that it’s reacting to projects rather than doing planning," Ms. Brake said. "And it doesn’t acknowledge the enormous cumulative impact of smaller developments."
   Gov. McGreevey appeared before the transportation forum in December to ask members to devise a mechanism for intermunicipal planning to help the state achieve its smart-growth goals.
   In response, the forum’s legislative subcommittee, of which Ms. Brake is a member, proposed a possible solution: Regional Action Plans that would give the counties authority to enforce and monitor planning by the municipalities within their borders.