NJ governor embraces smart growth

McGreevey wants to build more transit villages and fewer roads.

With Parris Glendening’s tenure as governor of Maryland about to end, it appears that leadership in the campaign for “smart growth” is now being claimed by New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey.

A Democrat in charge of the nation’s most densely populated state, McGreevey declared in October that “New Jersey must stop subsidizing sprawl and focus on redevelopment and smarter regulation.”

McGreevey laid out these concepts for planning, development, and community improvement:

• Construction of new roads will be curtailed. “In the past 10 years, New Jersey spent an average of 20 percent of its transportation capital budget on new roads,” McGreevey said. This year, that is being reduced to 4 percent. Priority is being directed to bridges and roads in need of repair and to mass transit projects, he said.

• A program of building “transit villages, developments that place homes and businesses within a half-mile of a rail station, will be expanded. The transit village initiative “rewards the efforts of municipalities that are implementing transit-friendly, smart-growth land use practices,” he noted.

• The Department of Community Affairs, which houses the newly established Office of Smart Growth, is being directed to produce “a package of ‘super-incentives’ for developers who are working in smart-growth areas and adhering to smart-growth principles.”

• A legal “defense shield” has been established, offering the assistance of the attorney general’s office to municipalities working to implement smart growth in precedent-setting cases.

• Legislation has been signed authorizing the state to reimburse residential developers for up to 75 percent of the cost of brownfield remediation.

Some question how effective the state can be in this area, since planning power is exercised by the municipalities.