Smart Growth promotes a sound economic future in all regions, making location decisions that will reduce land and resource consumption, increase choices in housing and transportation, and reconnect the cities and suburbs.
Located in the center of the Boston-Washington, D.C. Corridor, New Jersey has the transportation, workforce, universities and natural and historic resources that make it well situated to be a competitive force in the 21st century global economy. The state is a leader in the post-industrial, knowledge-based service economy because of key industries including biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, health care, telecommunications, business services, and warehouse/distribution.
Due to current zoning patterns, the location of new development by these economic sectors has led to suburban sprawl: development has become more highway dependent, consumed large amounts of open space and farmland and increased housing pressure on open land. As the economy flees urban areas, shrinking their economic base, urban residents have a higher tax burden for fewer services and poorer schools. Housing falls into disrepair and the labor force left behind has a harder time reaching jobs that are now located where there is no transit service.
Although there is currently more interest in urban locations – the areas around Manhattan have seen considerable revitalization – government has floundered on how to fan that interest at the same time as requiring new development to do more to restore the urban environment and create more market rate housing. New Jersey’s huge capital investment in new schools in the Abbott districts (distressed communities that the New Jersey Supreme Court has directed the Legislature to help) will be wasted unless public policy can succeed in stimulating more economic integration and a better quality of community life in urban neighborhoods.
PlanSmart NJ Position
Assuring that all residents have economic prosperity is the goal of PlanSmart NJ. PlanSmart NJ works with other organizations, such as local and regional Chambers of Commerce, corporations and local government toward this goal. PlanSmart NJ promotes affordable housing to ensure that there is an adequate labor force, and we work to improve the quality of life to help businesses attract and retain the employees they need.
Our research demonstrates that if central New Jersey continues to consume land for growth at its current rate, we will have no land available to develop before we reach our 2020 growth projections. Our policy outlines an alternative way to grow, building growth capacity and increasing property values by investing in an intra-regional transit system and focusing growth in selected centers. The goal is to re-connect a region which has abandoned its cities and downtowns over the past few decades and provide a framework for continued growth and prosperity.
PlanSmart NJ is promoting an economic policy study that will analyze the key sectors of New Jersey’s economy and determine the best strategies for harnessing these economic engines to achieve Smart Growth goals – the redevelopment of distressed areas, the balance of housing with jobs in the suburbs, and the protection of rural areas while providing a viable rural economy. In particular, PlanSmart NJ encourages transportation policies that recognize New Jersey’s role as a vital port in the global economy, with a distribution system that includes rail lines, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Interstate system. New Jersey must find ways to shift more goods to rail, reduce the number of trucks on local roads, improve the safety record of truck travel and understand the best uses of interchanges in various areas (which are to be developed and which protected from development).
Since founded in 1968, PlanSmart NJ’s achievements in field of economic development have included:
- Published What’s Land Use Got To Do With It?: Examining the Connections Between New Jersey’s Economic Prosperity and Its Land Use Patterns
- We hosted a conference in Spring 2011 attended by approximately 100 participants, Impacting Economic Expansion and Retention in New Jersey: A Land Use Perspective”.
- Convening the 1995-97 Regional Economic Partnership (REP), with representatives from the public, private and non-profit sectors, including the major universities and colleges in the Central Jersey region,
- Preparing analyses of trends in the regional economy as well as hosting roundtable discussions of key industries, including real estate, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, financial services, and telecommunications and goods movement,
- Developing economic development strategies to foster sustainable economic growth in the Central Jersey region and to improve communication and coordination of economic development activities on a regional scale,
- Creating a process for setting Urban Growth Targets, accompanied by ambitious new strategies that will bring revitalization.