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We’ve Moved!

June 13, 2011

When we started Garden State Smart Growth in 2009, we wanted a new way to share news and analysis about land-use issues in New Jersey. Since then, Garden State Smart Growth has become an integral part of New Jersey Future’s communications, and readership has grown steadily. Now, as part of our larger website redesign, we’re happy to announce that Garden State Smart Growth has moved to njfuture.org/blog. The new blog, which will be known as the Future Facts blog, will be a subsection of our website and will help us integrate all of the great content we produce.

The old blog will redirect automatically to the new address, but if you subscribe to our posts on Google Reader or through the RSS feed, we encourage you to update your subscription with the new address: http://www.njfuture.org/blog

New Jersey Future Statement on Energy Master Plan

June 8, 2011

New Jersey Future reviewed the draft 2011 Energy Master Plan, released on June 7, with an eye toward the plan’s land-use implications. How we plan and use our land affects how we develop, manage and use energy.  For instance, planning and concentrating development allows more cost-effective transmission of energy and, in many cases, lessens demand, e.g., by reducing the distance people need to travel to work, shop and play.  Likewise, how we develop, manage and use energy affects how efficiently and effectively we use our land.  For instance, encouraging increased use of non-renewable, cheap energy, e.g. gasoline, can drive suburban sprawl.

The draft Energy Master Plan makes some positive statements about where the state should steer renewable energy generation, but falls short in making the link between land use and energy by virtually ignoring the transportation sector, one of the largest segments of energy consumption.  The plan also includes several provisions that would weaken the state’s commitment to a green economy and a green future.

New Jersey is unquestionably a national leader in solar installations.  In large part, this has been driven by subsidies that make it economical to install solar systems.  The draft Energy Master Plan correctly points out that oversized solar facilities should not be placed on agricultural lands.  It also recommends, appropriately, that subsidies should be directed to solar facilities that are sited in places that currently have disturbed land, e.g., rooftops, parking lots, brownfields and landfills.  It will be important to see how these incentives play out, however, since solar facilities are not necessarily the highest and best use for all brownfield and landfill locations; a prime redevelopment site next to a train station that also happens to be a brownfield is just one example.

Transportation, specifically the private automobile, is by far the largest consumer of energy in New Jersey, and is also the fastest-growing. Yet the draft Energy Master Plan, whose purpose is to lay out a strategic vision for the state’s energy use, scarcely mentions it. When it does, the plan emphasizes reliance on new technologies, e.g., electric cars and clean fuels, to reduce energy consumption from the transportation sector. Although numerous studies have shown that these technologies alone will not be nearly enough to reduce transportation energy consumption, because they will be outpaced by the growth in vehicle miles traveled (VMT), there is no mention in the plan of reducing transportation demand.

The 2008 version of the Energy Master Plan, while acknowledging the significant role the transportation sector plays in New Jersey’s energy portfolio, opted not to address this sector, leaving it instead for the Department of Environmental Protection’s Global Warming Response Act Recommendation report. That report, which was released in 2009, does address transportation demand in detail, acknowledging that “because there is a direct correlation between sprawling land development patterns and personal vehicle use …  it will be difficult for New Jersey to meet its statewide GHG limits without a fundamental shift in the State’s historic development patterns.” The DEP plan makes a series of recommendations to do just that, including encouraging more redevelopment, focusing growth around transit and doubling transit ridership by 2050. The plan, however, has lain dormant since 2009, and no significant actions have been taken to implement any of its recommendations regarding transportation.

When Governor Christie announced his intention to pull out of the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) last week, New Jersey Future lamented that it signaled a change in direction away from the administration’s stated support for a green future.  The draft Energy Master Plan reinforces this disturbing trend.  The plan reflects a short-term view rather than a long-term vision, focusing more on increasing supply and cutting costs than on reducing demand and securing a sustainable energy future.  Its recommendation to reduce incentives for renewable energy generation and energy-efficiency programs seriously undermines this administration’s commitment to a green economy, and diminishes New Jersey’s role as a national leader in attracting investment in renewable energy. These are precisely the wrong signals to be sending at a time when New Jersey is looking to create quality, high-paying jobs in this expanding field.

Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Spurs Development Interest in Newark

June 7, 2011

Downtown Newark. Source: flickr user Stephen Rees

Newark has a lot going for it these days. Aside from sitting at the confluence of some of the most valuable transportation infrastructure in the nation (I-95, Newark Liberty International Airport, Port Newark, the Northeast Rail Corridor), New Jersey’s largest city now hosts a popular arena and performing arts center, and recently reversed its decades-long population decline. But the city has still struggled to attract major employers. Now, as National Resources Defense Council’s Kaid Benfield heralds the demise of the suburban office park on his blog, the Star-Ledger reports on the flip side of this trend, citing increased interest from companies to move to downtown Newark. The Ledger reports the city has been receiving calls from companies interested in emulating Panasonic, which recently decided to move its North American headquarters from Secaucus to Newark.

This news isn’t just good for Newark, it’s also good for the state. Locating jobs in downtown Newark, rather than far-flung suburban locations, helps ease development pressure on open space and takes advantage of existing infrastructure, a goal shared by many in the nation’s most densely populated state. And because Newark is a hub of New Jersey’s transit system (the city is served by seven rail lines,  as well as numerous bus routes), locating employers there will help reduce traffic congestion (New Jersey Future published a research report on this subject, Getting to Work, in 2008) by giving employees other options to get to work besides driving. Indeed, Panasonic CEO Joe Taylor cited the city’s connectivity  as a reason for the move: “We couldn’t possibly demonstrate our commitment and our credibility to being a green company, and ask 1,000 people to drive to work every day.”

This renewed interest in Newark is fueled, in part, by the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program, which offers a sizable financial incentive to corporations for making sizable capital investments within one-half mile of a transit facility in one of nine designated “transit hubs.” (Panasonic will receive more than $100 million under the program for its move.), The increased activity in Newark and other designated cities is evidence that the incentive is having its intended effect of spurring urban revitalization. Companies investing in New Brunswick, Camden and Elizabeth have also received credits under the program. Moreover, after spending years of indirectly subsidizing suburban development by building roads and other infrastructure to aid the exodus of New Jersey’s cities, the UTHTC program helps reverse this trend by incentivizing companies to return.

Seven Trend-Setting Projects, Plans Earn Smart Growth Awards for 2011

June 1, 2011

Seven Trend-Setting Projects, Plans Earn Smart Growth Awards for 2011 

  • Seven projects and plans, ranging from a new village center in Byram Township to a creative inter-municipal affordable-housing project in Woodstown Borough and Pilesgrove Township to an innovative recycling facility in Woodbridge, have been selected to receive 2011 Smart Growth Awards from New Jersey Future. 
  • Since 2002, New Jersey Future has honored more than 60 projects with Smart Growth Awards. Winners are selected from a statewide public nomination process by an independent jury of professional developers, architects, planners and redevelopment experts.
  • As the first chairman of the State Planning Commission, James G. Gilbert was a driving force behind the initial adoption of the State Development and Redevelopment Plan in 1992. He is the 2011 winner of New Jersey Future’s Cary Edwards Leadership Award.

10th Anniversary Award-Winners to be Honored at Reception  

New Jersey Future will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Smart Growth Awards with a reception at the Newark Club on June 9. In addition to the seven Smart Growth Award-winners, New Jersey Future will honor former State Planning Commission Chairman James G. Gilbert, a longtime member of the organization’s Board of Trustees, who will receive the Cary Edwards Leadership Award for his quarter-century of tireless advocacy for smart growth. 

Bailey Corner is a creative inter-municipal project that came about through the collaboration of two Salem County towns, blending an older, compact neighborhood in Woodstown Borough with newer commercial development in Pilesgrove Township. Cherry Hill-based affordable-housing developer Ingerman and Haddonfield architectural firm haley.donovan advanced the project, which connects with and enhances the character of its surroundings while meeting both towns’ affordable-housing obligations. 

Bayshore Recycling Complex, a partnership between Bayshore Recycling Corporation and Woodbridge Township, brings together brownfield redevelopment, advanced recovery of materials through recycling and sustainable operations powered by renewable energy. When build-out of its 15-year development plan is completed, Bayshore, which occupies a 52-acre waterfront site in the heavily industrial Keasbey section of Woodbridge, will operate 100-percent “green” businesses powered by 100-percent renewable energy.

Byram Village Center—a collaboration of Byram Township, the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council and Heyer & Gruel Associates—is an innovative development plan that will establish a mixed-use town center for Byram Township that addresses the Sussex County township’s affordable-housing obligations and protects the significant natural resources along a scenic tributary of the Musconetcong River. 

A collaboration of HHG Development and the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, The Cracker Factory converted a deteriorated storage warehouse in Trenton into a mixed-income housing project of 18 one- and two-bedroom lofts that preserves the historic character of the building and its surrounding neighborhood.

Duke Farms, a 2,700-acre estate in Hillsborough, is being transformed into a regional environmental center offering greater public access and educational programs with a focus on land stewardship and sustainability. The Duke Farms Foundation went through an exhaustive planning process, taking stock of its resources, working with state, federal and local conservation organizations, reaching out to local communities and other public gardens to assist in the development of a new vision for the property. 

The Barbara W. Valk Firehouse Apartments occupy a site in downtown Madison Borough that was the original home of the Madison Hook and Ladder Company. Through a collaboration of Madison Borough, the Madison Affordable Housing Corporation and Madison Housing Authority, the old firehouse gave way to a four-story, 12-unit apartment building that houses very-low-income senior citizens. 

The Hoboken Housing Authority Vision 20/20 Plan calls for the transformation of Hoboken’s World War II-era public housing, concentrated on a 17-acre site in the southwestern portion of the city, into a sustainable, transit-oriented, mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood. Together with Marchetto Higgins Stieve Architects and Planners, the Hoboken Housing Authority devised the plan to replace the city’s outdated public housing stock with new affordable and market-rate units, financed through public and private investment spurred by rising property values in the surrounding residential neighborhoods. 

Nominees for Smart Growth Awards are judged against the following criteria: 

  • located near existing development and infrastructure;
  • increase the range of housing options;
  • create or enhance a vibrant mix of uses (residential, retail, office);
  • protect open space, farmland and critical environmental areas;
  • create or enhance choices for getting around;
  • create walkable spaces, designed for personal interaction;
  • respect community character, design and historic features;
  • create or enhance linkages to existing developments or plans; and
  • fair public process.

 For detailed descriptions of this year’s and previous winners, as well as additional information about the June 9 Smart Growth Awards celebration, please visit our website.

Responding to Governor Christie’s Decision to Pull Out of Regional Climate Pact

May 26, 2011

New Jersey Future and American Planning Association-NJ Chapter released the following statements in response to today’s announcement that Governor Chris Christie wants New Jersey to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RRGI):

Peter Kasabach

Executive Director, New Jersey Future

“As a candidate for governor, Chris Christie declared that New Jersey should be a national leader in the research and development of alternative, clean, sustainable sources of energy. As governor, his announcement today that he wants New Jersey to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will make this worthy goal far more difficult to reach.

“With this announcement, the governor intends to pull the plug on a worthy regional effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and America’s dependence on imported oil. While most of our neighbors—including New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Delaware—would receive millions of dollars from RGGI to promote energy efficiency, renewable energy and state-of-the-art electric generation facilities, New Jersey would not. While other states in the region would compete for high-paying, sustainable green jobs to fuel their economic recovery, New Jersey would be sending a signal that it is no longer interested in participating in this regional effort.

“Contrary to the governor’s assertion, there is no evidence that businesses have been negatively affected by New Jersey’s participation in RGGI.  In fact, over the long run, RGGI is expected to make our companies more competitive, by increasing the supply of electricity from alternative sources, reducing demand through energy efficiency measures and bringing down the price of electricity for all users. The proceeds from RGGI would also provide financially strapped municipalities with resources to plan for sustainable land-use and transportation projects that reduce carbon emissions and energy use.

“These benefits will no longer accrue to New Jersey and its residents if the governor’s intention is turned into state policy. We trust that the governor, over the next several months, will listen to the citizens of New Jersey who want to move forward, not backward, on clean energy, and will conclude that staying in RGGI is in the state’s—and the nation’s—best interest.”

***

Chuck Latini, PP, AICP

President, American Planning Association-NJ Chapter

“This is a disappointing decision from the Governor’s Office to pull New Jersey out of RGGI, breaking New Jersey’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and undermining what has been a positive environment for renewable energy development in the state.

“Given the serious impacts that a warming climate will have on New Jersey, this decision will lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, further contribute to the rising sea levels and more extreme weather events in New Jersey.

“RGGI is an excellent combination of market and government partnering to demonstrate the real costs of energy. It is surprising that an administration concerned with improving the business climate would do so at the expense of the public.”

Many Roads in New Jersey are “Dangerous by Design” for Pedestrians

May 24, 2011

At what point is an accident not an "accident"? Source: Dr. Scott Crawford

There have been 1,514 pedestrian fatalities in New Jersey between 2000 and 2009, representing nearly one of every five traffic fatalities in the state. The majority of these deaths occurred on suburban arterial roads where wide lanes and high speeds, along with little or no provision for pedestrians and bikers, create an inherent danger for anyone looking to get around without a car. That’s the conclusion of T4-America’s new report, Dangerous by Design, which was co-released today by the AARP-NJ, APA-NJ, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers, the NJ Bike & Walk Coalition, New Jersey Future, the Trenton Cycling Revolution and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

It’s a conclusion that’s hard to argue with for anyone who has driven around New Jersey. As jobs, shopping and housing have migrated away from the state’s cities and boroughs in recent decade towards suburban and rural areas, they have been tied together by a network of roads designed exclusively for cars.  Roads like Route 130 in Burlington County, Route 28 in Union County and the White Horse Pike in Atlantic County all fit this description, and all top the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s most recent list of dangerous roads for pedestrians in New Jersey. In Central Jersey, the Route 1 corridor has seen an explosion of office and retail development over the past two decades, attracting thousands of people every day, but remains an imposing barrier for pedestrians and is sparsely served by public transit.

Fortunately, the NJDOT recognizes this problem, and has been taking steps to address it. In part as a result, pedestrian fatalities have declined in recent years, as the department has increased funding for Safe Routes to School and other pedestrian safety programs. The most significant action taken so far has been the adoption of a statewide Complete Streets policy in 2009, which requires the state to accommodate pedestrians, transit users and bicyclists with sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, median strips and other elements when designing new roads or retrofitting old ones. It’s a commonsense policy that reflects the reality that many Americans do not drive for a variety of reasons, and will increase safety on NJ roads over the long term.

Unfortunately, the policy only applies to state roads, which account for around 12 percent of the state’s road mileage. The rest fall under county and local control, where Complete Streets are only suggested, not required. A few jurisdictions have adopted policies of their own, but the vast majority have not, meaning local and county roads built today often perpetuate the same design flaws that make getting around without a car dangerous.

The full report contains more information about conditions across the country, including a ranking of the most dangerous metropolitan areas in the country for pedestrians. The New Jersey fact sheet also contains info on the age and ethnicity of pedestrian fatality victims, as well as a ranking of the most dangerous counties in the state for pedestrians.

National Experts Advise the Christie Administration on State Strategic Planning

May 23, 2011

This past week, the Christie administration hosted a Governor’s Institute on Community Design workshop to explore advancing a state strategic plan that focuses on economic development and the importance of location.   The event was a milestone in the administration’s state strategic planning project, which is developing recommendations for how to prioritize and support sustainable economic growth.

The Lieutenant Governor, cabinet members and other high-ranking officials attended the day and one-half long workshop.  Visiting speakers included Doug Foy, President, Serrafix and former secretary of Commonwealth Development in Massachusetts; Mitch Silver, Director of Planning and Economic Development for Raleigh, North Carolina; and Daniel Hernandez, Managing Director of the Planning Practice at Jonathan Rose Companies.  Kicking off the event were GICD Chair and former Maryland Governor Glendenning and former New Jersey Governor and GICD co-chair Christine Todd Whitman.

“Governor Christie was pleased to host the Governor’s Institute on Community Design, “said Wayne Hasenbalg, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy.  “This Administration is taking a thoughtful approach to economic development that includes looking at the most efficient places to direct growth.”

The administration is expected to finalize recommendations to the Governor in July.