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.

Most people understand that New Jersey’s competitiveness is currently at risk. But they don’t know how to turn things around. PlanSmart NJ has leveraged its nearly four decades of real-world experience in the planning field to create a new vision for land use decision-makers that truly offers New Jersey’s best hope for the future.

The Smart Growth Economy Project envisions a revolutionary restructuring of how land use planning is practiced in New Jersey, at all levels of government. The comprehensive new system would provide a new platform from which to evaluate government programs on job growth, housing affordability, traffic congestion, urban revitalization, natural resource protection, environmental quality, racial and economic integration, property taxes and other pressing issues.

The Project has led to the development of three revolutionary new tools. The first is 4-E Planning©, a new approach to growth that stresses the connection between the economy, the environment, resource efficiency and regional equity. It is the first attempt in years to revive comprehensive planning, an approach that has languished since the federal government abandoned the practice in the 1960s.

With 4-E Planning©, decision-makers can better evaluate growth versus conservation questions. The approach also demands that each project promote the public interest by utilizing all available resources, such as infrastructure and transportation, in the most efficient manner possible. Equity issues, often overlooked, must also be addressed under this framework since problems such as concentrated poverty are costly financial burdens that can often be avoided with better planning.

The second tool is PlanMetrics, the first serious effort to apply target-based planning to land use. The new tools include a set of Target Calculators to set growth targets by County, and a Land Use Index, to describe base conditions in each County. Taken together, these metrics provide a new way to connect policy to local land use planning, based on optimizing a range of goals. Local officials can choose from a menu of strategies which, if acted on regionally, will achieve the targets.

The third tool is the RAP (Regional Action Plan©), the first public involvement process not based on asking open-ended questions, such as “What do you want?” but, instead, on answering the question, “How can we work together to achieve our joint goals?”

PlanSmart NJ has discussed the recommendations of the Smart Growth Economy Project with scores of state and local decision-makers, and the feedback received so far indicates that we have something important—something revolutionary, even—that could reframe smart growth in NJ and become a model for land use planning across the nation.

Though media outreach, and ongoing discussions, PlanSmart NJ will continue to advance the understanding of Governor Corzine, key members of his Administration, the Legislature, local officials, business leaders, nonprofit heads and other critical stakeholder groups. In addition, during 2007, we have:

  • Reconvened our roundtables on housing, transportation and water to read about the roudtables, click here.
  • Established a new Planning Innovation Network with interested parties to build the capacity for sound land use planning throughout the Garden State. In order for us to be effective, our planning tools and recommendations for reforms must be reviewed and refined in various types of places by people closer to the ground. The goal is to establish partnerships with legislators, county planners and other local and county officials, chambers of commerce, environmental organizations and others.
  • Sought funding to 1) collect the data that is missing but needed for our PlanMetrics and the RAP (Regional Action Planning), such as the location of infrastructure capacity and economic opportunities; 2) continue developing our target calculators and land use index; and 3) build a constituency around the state in multiple stakeholder groups.
  • Begun planning a statewide conference on the recommendations of our Final Report on the Smart Growth Economy Project in the spring of 2008.

Land Use Reform in New Jersey: Improving Conditions on the Ground

Changing New Jersey’s Landscape

Smart Growth Economy Project Supporters:

Atlantic City Electric, Atlanti County Utilities Authority, Bank of America, Clarke, Caton & Hintz, Cushman & Wakefield of NJ, DMJM Harris, Educational Testing Service, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, K. Hovnanian, Matzel & Mumford, The Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce, Merrill Lynch Community Development Bank, National Association of Industrial and Office Parks, NJ American Water, NJ Builders Association, New Jersey Business and Industry Association, NJ Economic Development Authority, NJIT, NJ Laborers Union, New Jersey Natural Gas, NY Shipping Association, PB Americas, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, PSE&G, Omni Environmental, South Jersey Gas, The Richard Stockton College-Carnegie Library Center, Verizon, and the members of PlanSmart NJ.





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