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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 13, 2005

 

Contact: Erin Phalon
(609) 984-1795

 

DEP PROPOSES NEW GREEN ACRES RULES

(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 conservation.

"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.

 

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Last Updated: July 13, 2005