The Highlands in 2023

NJ Highlands 2023 as of August 30, 2020

In the last month, Warren County communities have proceeded with plans to allow tax-free or tax abated enormous warehouse developments based on zoning plans that are 20 or more years old.  This is proposed at a time when real estate markets are changing radically.

Failing mall anchor stores for instance such as J.C. Penny’s, Sears and lately Lord and Taylor’s are considering revamping into warehousing. Morris county towns are considering converting office space to high-density condo or apartment space. , N.J. Motor Vehicle Commission sources are reporting that one of the causes of N.J.M.V.C.’s massive over-crowding (lines are forming at MVC offices as early as 3 a.m. and most offices have reached legal capacity hours before opening) is the heavy demand for New Jersey driver’s licenses from former New York city area residences.  The New York Times in the August 29 edition in aa front page article describes the suburban real estate market as “Insane”.  Existing single family homes are selling sight on unseen and receiving multiple bids within hours of being posted;, distant vacant suburban sub-dividable lots vacant or properties suitable for knockdown development are selling at prices exceeding $1M per half acre (estimate).

The Manhattan Exodus into north and central New Jersey is in full swing.  The impact on the Highlands district region is both certain;: increased water demand, increased traffic including which brings increased air pollution, and increased sewage and solid waste demands.   and uncertain; The new infrastructure challenges are unknown, the impacts onand response concerning schools, local food supplies, and local and regional retail markets and local town centers are undetermined.  The impact of all these, and many, many more factors, while unknown is guaranteed to be massive.  Presently, local, county, regional and state agencies, boards and authorities are completely unprepared to cope with the massive and immediate market changes that are upon us right now.  The reactions of county and local boards and agencies are, as they always have been, backward looking and tradition bound.

The present real estate market is reacting to the results of the immediate repercussions of the just past and present effects of the Coronavirus crisis.  The near future of this crisis and the unprecedented coming Presidential election will have effects that are presently completely impossible to predict.  Yet as our friend, Richard Cotton of Asbury Farms has said, end “We have to plan.”

Richard is of course correct.  The question remains however, what the hell are we planning for?  We don’t know if the present “insane” housing market will continue or perhaps expand.  We do not know how the post-election financial market will react.  Given the state and national debt and very high business failure and unemployment numbers racked up so far in the pandemic crisis, a slow down at least can be anticipated, perhaps worse.  The future also will depend on medical advances and the impact effectiveness of the drug and healthcare sectors.

Will businesses use or try to use the worldwide health crisis as an opportunity to exploit increasing profits?  After all the Baron Rothchild said during the Napoleonic Wars, “The time to buy is when there is blood in the streets.”  Or will some one, anyone, discover that the “the rising tide lifts all ships.”  The former rather than the latter has for the past generation been the dominant motto.

The immediate future is a chaotic, ever changing mass of dynamic dangerous possibilities.  As Richard Cotton has said we need to plan…for damn near everything.  More as this mess evolves.

George Stafford

NJ Highlands Coalition Ambassador