Sign up the builders

Residents of Old Bridge have had the benefit of knowing who’s planning to build what and where thanks to informative signs put up on lots where construction is being proposed. The signs, the result of an uncommon municipal ordinance adopted a few years back, are something residents of all towns should have as a resource.

Old Bridge’s policy requires developers, residents and just about anyone else looking to do more than put an addition onto their house, to post a sign offering the basic details of what they’re proposing. Officials in that township have reported no problems resulting from the practice, which helps to prevent surprises for residents, such as when that tree-lined field down the street is suddenly cleared to make way for the next housing development.

Although it isn’t the only town in New Jersey that gives residents this kind of heads up on building proposals, Old Bridge’s policy is unique among the rapidly developing towns in the central part of the state. And there seems no good reason why similar procedures haven’t been put in place elsewhere.

South Brunswick officials are looking to adopt an ordinance akin to Old Bridge’s next week. In fact, South Brunswick will take it even further, requiring not only that applicants provide an overview of the project, but that they specify the board handling it and provide a phone number to call for more information. The signs must go up no less than 10 days prior to a scheduled public hearing on the proposal.

This is a model for other towns to follow. Unfortunately, the legal notice requirements on the books in New Jersey are of little help to most residents. Unless you live within 200 feet of the property line of a proposed construction site, there’s no guarantee you’ll be given any advanced warning of a public hearing that may have major implications on your property value and lifestyle.

The signs are a useful way of informing people about proposals that can affect them in the future — plans that can have an impact on their roads, transform the character of a neighborhood, affect the local environment, etc., and encourage their attendance at meetings where the projects are discussed and adjudicated.