PlanSmart NJ is committed to changing New Jersey’s land use patterns to achieve better outcomes for the economy, environment, regional equity (social justice), and true efficiency (reducing costs and resource consumption). Our membership-supported projects and contracts are undertaken to demonstrate how the practice of land use planning must change to include and connect all four outcomes, optimizing results on the ground.

Working with people all over the state, our projects keep our policy positions focused on effectiveness: rooted in real-world experience, relevant to today’s challenges and mindful of different conditions in different regions.

Repurposing Stranded Assets Project

PlanSmart NJ is working to analyze demographic and real estate data and evaluate best practices and case studies to write and publish the Suburbs That Work: Changing Economy, Changing Land Use Guidebook. The Guidebook will be a resource for local officials and those that advise them to describe the fiscal impacts stranded assets have on communities and how repurposing can solve the many problems that arise from underperforming corporate campuses and retail sites, while also helping communities achieve other planning objectives. The case will be made for how communities will benefit from turning obsolete sites into functional, fiscally sustainable, and environmentally resilient assets. Recommendations will be sensitive to the existing community fabric and may range from walkable mixed use neighborhoods to single use repurposing.

To learn more about the project, click here. To read the final report, A Guide to the Future: Repurposing Stranded Assets and Revitalizing New Jersey’s Suburbs, please click here.

Sponsored by:


Together North Jersey

The North Jersey Sustainable Communities Consortium was awarded the 2011 HUD Sustainable Communities grant to develop a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development (RPSD) for the 13-county NJTPA region. The plan will use sustainability, transit system connectivity, and transit-oriented-development as the central framework for integrating plans, regulations, investments, and incentive programs at all levels of government to bring jobs and create additional economic development opportunities in the area. To learn more about the initiative, please click here.

Smart Growth Economy Project (SGEP)

PlanSmart NJ embarked on the Smart Growth Economy Project in 2005 to address the many difficult challenges facing NJ today: skyrocketing housing costs, insufferable commutes, an alarming loss of open space and one of the most segregated states in the union. All of these disturbing trends can be traced to misguided land use decisions that today pose a serious threat to the Garden State’s economy and environment.  To learn more about the projects and read report findings, please click here.

Planning to Protect Natural Capital

NJ Department of Environmental Protection awarded PlanSmart NJ a contract to write a report on how environmental protection might be enhanced in local land use decisionmaking if the value of the resources were properly understood. As the starting point for the project, DEP provided their 2007 study called,Valuing New Jersey’s Natural Capital, which attributed a dollar value to natural resources. Extensive research was conducted on relevant ecosystem goods and services projects and strategies already completed in this country and elsewhere. PlanSmart NJ analyzed the local and state land use planning processes currently used in New Jersey to determine appropriate intervention points to retain New Jersey’s natural capital. In addition, environmentalists, local planners and practitioners were invited to two roundtables and others were interviewed by phone to provide their ideas about what might work in New Jersey. To read the final report, click here.

State Highway Access Code

PlanSmart NJ’s former President Dianne Brake was invited to be a member of an Advisory Group to a NJ Department of Transportation project that was reassessing the State’s Highway Access Management Code. Although each time improvements to the Code are made, there is still more needed to transform NJDOT’s approach to congestion, land use and regulations – Code requirements still impede growth in identified growth areas. This time, much of the consulting work was spent on how the Access Code affects communities that have a main street that is also a state highway. Consultants developed an effective scoring system to identify these special places.

As valuable as that work was, there was little change to the parts of the Code that have already been identified as problems in downtowns that are centered on state highways.  PlanSmart NJ advocated that NJDOT work with NJ Transit to select priority transit corridors and develop a long-range master plan that identifies these corridors and how they will be serviced throughout the state with an intra-regional system and aggressive feeder service. This approach could turn local land use battles against density into arguments for new transit capacity.  New Jersey State Highway Access Management Code.

Affordable Housing Policy

Since becoming a founding member of the New Jersey Regional Coalition (NJRC) in 2003, PlanSmart NJ has helped shape the policy issues that focus the Coalition’s community organizing. One of the Coalition’s central issues has been to abolish New Jersey’s practice of allowing wealthy towns to pay poorer towns to accept up to half of its obligation to provide affordable housing. The practice was called Regional Contribution Agreements (RCAs). The faithbased, union, and community-based organizations that make up the Coalition, found RCAs contributed to the concentration of poverty and segregation and  must be abolished. PlanSmart NJ was brought in as an expert witness during the hearings on A-500. We were asked to explain how affordable housing in the suburbs was consistent with Smart Growth and did not constitute sprawl.

First Suburbs Projects

PlanSmart NJ continued its working relationship with the Fund for an OPEN Society. OPEN is a national nonprofit headquartered in New Jersey that works toward encouraging racially and economically integrated communities. An important part of their work involves building coalitions of communities with common concerns. PlanSmart NJ undertook data collection and analysis for OPEN. Although cities and growing suburban communities receive significant attention among planners and in the press, older inner-ring suburbs, or First Suburbs, have until recently been forgotten. Scattered across New Jersey, many of these communities share significant experiences.

Using TDR as a Planning Tool

In January 2005, PlanSmart NJ began working on a project to promote Transfer of Development Rights as a planning tool for municipalities to use under the new TDR legislation, funded by the Victoria Foundation. The project had three objectives:

  1. Develop a step-by-step process to be used to establish local TDR programs,
  2. Prepare and distribute materials about the advantages and implementation of TDR,
  3. Begin working on one TDR demonstration project, preferably in the Highlands .

PlanSmartNJ conducted research on this project as part of our work with the Highlands TDR working group (which also includes New Jersey Future, Environmental Defense, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and Regional Plan Association). PlanSmart NJ is currently working with New Jersey Future and other partners to make amendments to the statewide TDR Act to facilitate use of TDR as well as amendments to the Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL) to promote contiguous and non-contiguous clustering as an open space preservation and center-based development strategy.

For Past Projects please go to our Archives page or click below.

Please click here to see past projects in our Archives. 

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