Bill would require signs on proposed building sites

Towns would post signs about construction plans at builders’ expense

A state assemblyman from Middlesex County wants to require towns to erect signs notifying residents of proposed building applications.

Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. (D-18) introduced legislation recently that would require the signs and alert communities about upcoming public hearings. The effort comes in the wake of a Feb. 2 Appellate Court decision that struck down an Edison notification ordinance requiring developers to put up signs on the sites of proposed projects.

The court said that state law does not allow townships to adopt their own notification plans.

But Edison is not alone in its desire to have builders put up signs.

In December, South Brunswick adopted an ordinance requiring all parties with pending development applications to post signs citing details of their proposals. The law states that the signs must be in place at least 10 days before a scheduled public hearing on the application.

Old Bridge has for nearly five years required builders to put up signs with basic details about their proposals. The law applies to any construction plan, with the exception of small additions to already existing structures. Township officials noted that developers have not complained about the ordinance, which officials said keeps residents, particularly those who may be moving to the area, informed about what is proposed.

Diegnan said he believes residents should have ample opportunity to review and comment on plans that may impact their communities.

“Local officials and developers need to take every practicable step to give residents a chance to have input on any proposal that will affect their neighborhood,” Diegnan said in a press release. “Requiring signs that all residents can easily read well before any construction takes place is an important part of that process.”

Diegnan’s bill would require towns to erect signs on the site of proposed development projects stating that a development application has been filed with the township relative to this property, and providing a phone number for a municipal official and the application number.

Municipalities could then charge developers fees of up to $75 to cover printing and other associated costs.

Signs would have to be posted at least 10 days before the first scheduled public hearing on a development application, and remain standing for 45 days following final action by the local board or authority.

Towns would individually determine the size of the placards to be required. Under the Edison ordinance, developers had to erect signs that measured 32 square feet.

“Residents have a right to learn of a developer’s plans well before the first shovel is put in the ground,” Diegnan said. “The process of government becomes stronger when public input is encouraged. This bill is another means to assure that residents affected by development will know what is proposed and can have their voices heard well before decisions are made and construction begins.”

The bill, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Peter Barnes (also D-18), has been referred to the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee.