DEP PROPOSES NEW GREEN ACRES
(05/98) TRENTON -- Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced
proposed rules that clarify the criteria used to award Green Acres
funding and strengthen the standards governing the diversion of
Green Acres-protected parkland to uses other than recreation and
"These reforms fulfill our commitment to raise the bar against
diversions of protected open space, and codify reforms to an unfair
funding approach that shortchanged New Jersey's most populated
communities for years," said Commissioner Campbell.
The Green Acres rules govern the distribution of Garden State
Preservation Trust funding to local governments and nonprofits.
The proposed rules would formalize recent efforts by the Green
Acres Program to direct more funding to projects located in densely
populated communities throughout the State as well as watershed
land critical to preserving our water resources. The rules also
clarify many procedural requirements for both land acquisition
and park development projects that will expedite payments to local
governments and nonprofits for approved projects.
"By allowing every part of New Jersey to seek their fair
share of open space funding, Commissioner Campbell's reforms to
the Green Acres program have made a major difference in the renaissance
of Essex County's historic park system," said Essex County
Executive Joseph DiVincenzo.
Local government and nonprofits that accept Green Acres funding
continue to own and manage their open space and parks, subject
to certain restrictions designed to protect the public's investment.
Under the new rules, local governments and nonprofits seeking
to divert parkland to other uses would be required to give the
public greater notice of and opportunity to comment on such proposals.
In cases in which diversions are approved, local governments and
nonprofits generally would be required to preserve at least twice
as much land as they divert. Because major diversions would be
subject to more stringent requirements, DEP proposes to create
a category of minor diversions of parkland for which application
requirements would be streamlined.
In addition, the proposed rules would require local governments
to notify DEP and the public prior to changing the purpose for
which Green Acres-funded parklands are being used to another recreation
and conservation purpose. The change would require local governments
to advertise and hold at least one public hearing on the proposed
change and notify Green Acres of its intent prior to proceeding.
"We applaud the NJDEP Green Acres Program for taking on
the monumental task of repairing the many flaws in the current
conservation lands diversion process," said New Jersey Conservation
Foundation Executive Director Michele S. Byers. "The proposed
rules include numerous improvements, and we look forward to working
with the Green Acres Program to ensure that New Jersey's conservation
lands remain protected for future generations."
The proposed rules also describe the appraisal requirements established
by the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act. The legislation
requires the Green Acres Program to determine a property's fair
market value at the time of its acquisition and its hypothetical
value as of January 1, 2004. Green Acres participation will be
based on the higher of the two values, subject to available funding.
The draft rules were published in the New Jersey Register July
5 and public comments will be accepted until September 3. DEP
will hold a public hearing concerning these proposed rules on
Thursday, July 28, 2005 from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. The hearing
will be held in the DEP Public Hearing Room, 401 East State Street,
first floor, Trenton.