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Highlands Council

To Conform or Not to Conform, in the Highlands That Is the Question

Foliage, Sussex County NJ Highlands, Dwight HiscanoMassive changes, like it or not are coming to the Highlands region. The Coronaviruses and its public health, economic and social consequences will affect every community, county and for that matter the state government. The State’s tax revenue, state and federal aid, grants and county programs will, again like it or not will be negatively affected at least in the short term. Historical changes are coming to Washington and Trenton. Real estate values are shifting up and down and will affect tax revenue. The Governor has just signed into law requirement for municipalities to include a climate change-related hazard vulnerability assessment into the land use element of the master plan. This will require proactive planning to protect communities against the dangers of climate change. Present catastrophic damage to small businesses with deeply impact all government bottom lines. There is in our area however, a source of real fiscal and planning assistance from the Highlands Council for conformed communities and from the State Planning Board. The Highlands Council is ready to assist Conforming communities with the following means to cope with the coming challenges to our Region:

Land Use and Development

• Sustainable Economic Development Planning
• Highlands Redevelopment Area Planning
• Highlands Center Planning
• Green Building and Environmental Sustainability Planning
• TDR Feasibility Analysis and Implementation
• Housing Element and Fair Share Plan (not including related legal costs)
• Municipal Master Plan Reexamination and Updates

Recreation and Preservation​

• Land Preservation & Stewardship Plan
• Farmland Preservation & Agriculture Retention Plan
• Historic Preservation Planning and Cultural Resource Inventory
• Trails and Recreation Planning

Kayaker fishing at Allamuchy State Park

Infrastructure

• Stormwater Management Planning
• Water Use and Conservation Management Planning
• Alternative Wastewater Planning
• Wastewater Management Plans
• Septic System Management/Maintenance Planning
• Resource Management
• Lake Management Planning
• Stream Corridor Protection/Restoration Planning
• Water Quality Monitoring
• Habitat Conservation & Management Planning
• Forest Stewardship Planning
• Scenic Resource Management Planning

Open Space and Highlands Development Credit Purchase Programs

Your community could do any of these things on your own. But the Highlands Council will help with the bills and guidance if you are conformed.

Additionally the Highlands Coalition is eager to guide your community through the State Planning Boards Commission’s Programs some of which are listed below: Such as …

Land Use and Environmental Protection

The Office for Planning Advocacy – Facilitate coordinated state agency review and advice from relevant State agencies on implementation of the State Plan into local and county planning decisions related to master plan review and updates, infrastructure improvement, development regulations, design standards, and resource protection.

NJDEP Division of Water Quality – Prioritized scoring and preferential interest rates on loans for construction and implementation of a variety of water quality protection measures, including sewer / water capacity expansions, combined sewer overflow abatement measures, wastewater collection, conveyance and treatment facilities, stormwater management activities, lake restoration, streambank stabilization, well sealing, equipment purchases, landfill closures and construction, site remediation and open space land acquisition.

Economic Development

Brownfields – Coordinated state agency assessment and advice on requirements and benefits of brownfield site identification, cleanup and redevelopment.

Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund NJDEP, Office of Brownfield Reuse – NJEDA Prioritized scoring for financial assistance and grants to assist businesses, municipalities and non-profit entities with the investigation and remediation of brownfields and other contaminated sites.

Municipal and County Planning Incentive Grants – SADC Grants to help purchase development easements to permanently preserve large blocks of reasonably contiguous farmland in county Agricultural Development Areas (ADAs). Farmland Preservation/Agricultural Retention Plans will be given presumption of validity, and towns will enjoy expedited review for PIG grants.

Housing

 Clean Water State Revolving Fund Financing Program NJDEP Division of Water Quality/NJIB – Prioritized scoring and preferential interest rates on loans for construction and implementation of a variety of water quality protection measures, including sewer / water capacity expansions, combined sewer overflow abatement measures, wastewater collection, conveyance and treatment facilities, stormwater management activities, lake restoration, streambank stabilization, well sealing, equipment purchases, landfill closures and construction, site remediation and open space land acquisition. Transfer of Development Rights Program Office of Smart Growth SADC, State TDR Bank Cost – Share grants and technical assistance to help municipalities conduct planning for creation and adoption of TDR program where TDR receiving areas are proposed in smart growth areas. For established TDR programs, matching funds to assist municipalities or counties purchase development potential. Crystal Spring Preserve, Lebanon Township, photo by John Gattuso

Transportation

Recreation, Historic & Cultural Resources – Municipal Aid Formula Funding NJDOT Division of Local Aid and Economic Development Funds distributed by formula to municipalities for road improvement projects such as resurfacing, rehabilitation or reconstruction and signalization. Municipalities may apply for bikeways, bridge reservation, mobility, pedestrian safety, quality of life, roadway preservation and roadway safety under municipal aid funding. Designated SDRP Centers receive one priority point in the rating of projects.

Low Income Housing Tax Credit Qualified Allocation Program NJHMFA The Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) – Awards 2 points for projects that are “Ready to Grow”. In order to meet “Ready to Grow”, the project must be designated as Smart Growth or has water and sewer with one of 6 other criteria

Global Warming – Any revised municipal master plan will be required to describe how a municipality will incorporate local mitigation strategies such as smart growth, storm resiliency, and environmental sustainability into their land use plan. It will be essential for environmental commissioners to be involved in the revision of this plan and steer their elected officials in the right direction.

Regional Planning – The SPC, State Planning Commission, by adoption of Resolution #2020-12 on November 4, 2020, has endorsed the Highlands Regional Master Plan (RMP). County Regional Planning is advancing at various stages across the Highlands district.