The Highlands Council understands that during the planning process many residents and local officials in the Highlands Region will have questions on a wide range of issues. As a result, the Highlands Council has made its outreach and land owner assistance programs a priority. The Council recognizes that this law has changed people’s rights, and they deserve straightforward and proactive responses to their questions.
In May, 2005, the New Jersey Highlands Council launched the first phase of a multilevel public participation program to involve Municipal and County officials, as well as other area residents, in the development of the Highlands Regional Master Plan. The “Partnership” events are aimed at ensuring maximum public input during the creation of the Regional Master Plan. The meetings in May focused on getting feedback from local and regional officials; as well as identifying and prioritizing issues in the Regional Master Plan that were most important to those officials. The Council then produced a comprehensive report on the meetings, detailing the feedback as well as outlining ways to move forward productively. The second round of Partnership meetings took place in October, 2005.
The New Jersey Highlands Council created 18 Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) comprised of experts from an array of subject areas which the Council must address in creating a regional master plan. The TACs, all of which met during the month of August,2005, were formed to help the Council follow a planning process that is based upon sound science and informed, practical experience. The 18 committees focus on elements of the Regional Master Plan outlined in the Highlands Act, including: Resource Assessment, Financial Assessment, Local Government and Public Input, Coordination and Consistency, Transportation, and Smart Growth among others. The TACs will comprise of volunteer consultants reviewing and commenting upon the scientific and technical basis for the Regional Master Plan
Both of these programs have served to inform the public of the regional master plan process and allow for expert assistance on virtually all elements being considered in the regional master plan. The Council has also created a “network” database of over 650 citizens who have expressed interest in the Highlands process, and these people will receive regular updates and progress reports.
The staff has produced programs and processes to help educate citizens and business interests on not only the rules, but also to help guide them through the process surrounding the regional master plan. Staff attorneys are regularly scheduling free morning meetings (before 9:00 am) with private and public interests. To date, the Council staff has participated in 77 constituent meetings, have received over 400 phone calls and have responded to all inquiries.
We hope that the information on this site serves to answer any questions you may have about the work of the Highlands Council. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us directly with these questions and we will do our best to give you clear and timely answers. We are confident that, when it is finished, the Highlands Regional Master Plan will help maintain the natural, cultural and economic resources of the Highlands for countless years to come.