New center to inform land-use policy

One-stop shopping for municipalities’ smart-growth needs.

By: David Campbell
   The new Municipal Land Use Center at The College of New Jersey promises "one-stop shopping" for area municipalities’ smart-growth needs — and it may prove a model for regions nationwide, said Ingrid Reed of Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics.
   Ms. Reed is on the five-member board for the new center, which has scheduled an open house for Feb. 27 at the college’s campus in Ewing.
   Rep. Rush Holt (D-12), who will be the keynote speaker at the event, got the idea for the center through his work both regionally and nationally, said Ms. Reed, who is wife of former Princeton Borough Mayor Marvin Reed.
   "He’s had experience at the local level and knows the challenges for municipalities to get good information and good assistance," she continued. "He was very often finding himself talking with citizens and local officials being frustrated with how to get resources for planning."
   The congressman has heard about similar concerns from his colleagues in the House of Representatives over the need for better development practices and access to resources by municipalities in their own districts.
   "It was his idea to try to get some funds that both would help the central part of New Jersey — not just his district — and also that this unique project could serve as a model nationally," Ms. Reed said.
   Unlike the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, which marshals resources on a statewide basis, the center will focus on specific challenges municipalities in this region face in developing in a smart way.
   "I sort of envision it as an old-fashioned department store," Ms. Reed said. "We’re kind of one-stop shopping for lots of products."
   With a $1.9 million three-year grant from the Federal Highway Administration obtained through Rep. Holt’s office, the center will primarily serve municipalities in the five counties of Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth and Somerset.
   It will seek to supplement municipal resources through training and by providing valuable technical assistance, while acknowledging municipalities as the key point of intervention to improve land-use decision-making in the five-county region, according to a release from the center.
   It will also seek to draw upon and apply resources available through The College of New Jersey, the release said.
   Ms. Reed described Martin Bierbaum, executive director of the Municipal Land Use Center at TCNJ, as an experienced professional who "in effect has a rolodex in his head."
   According to Mr. Bierbaum, the center seeks to promote the state’s smart-growth initiative, which he said takes into account local and regional impacts related to fiscal, transportation, environmental and affordable-housing concerns.
   "Despite laudable efforts by the state as well as regional planning initiatives, municipalities and counties often make decisions without the information necessary to see how those decisions impact the region," Mr. Bierbaum noted.
   The center, he continued, is one with a "bias" for implementation and for action.
   "The MLUC at TCNJ will support local land-use decision-making by providing technical assistance and facilitating access to valuable state, federal and non-governmental resources," he said.
   Mr. Bierbaum has been on the graduate faculty in public administration at Rutgers University, and has worked as an attorney and planning consultant.
   He served in the McGreevey administration’s Governor’s Policy Office as deputy policy director responsible for smart growth-related issues.
   He has held numerous policy-making positions in the state during his 16-year career prior to working in the Governor’s Policy Office, including assistant director of the Office of State Planning and director of environmental planning in the state Department of Environmental Protection.
   In addition to Mr. Bierbaum, the center is staffed by Donna Drewes, principal planning coordinator, and Linda Rosner, executive assistant. A data analyst is expected to be hired shortly, the center said.
   The center’s five-member board also includes board President Edmund Stiles, a professor of biology at Rutgers’ Cook College; Holmdel Township Mayor Larry Fink; Martin E. Robins, director of the Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute at Rutgers; and Robert J. Wolfe, principal with Picus Associates, a land development and management firm.
   The open house is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Room 106 of Paul Loser Hall on TCNJ’s Ewing campus. The center can be reach at (609) 771-2831. Its Web site is