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Department of State

Office of Planning Advocacy

The Hon. Tahesha Way, Secretary of State

New Jersey Planning Chronology

Governor Moore established a temporary state planning board in February. In May, the State Planning Act (P.L. 1934, c. 178) was passed.

In March the State Board is fully constituted when five citizens joined four officials on the board, and the agency's consultant-director was retained. State appropriations totaled $10,000 per year. Federal funding through various relief efforts provided the bulk of the agency's staff and financial support.

Between 1934 and 1938 expenditures totaled $225,000 with 80 percent paid by the Federal government. The Board provided information to other agencies, undertook special studies, and performed statewide studies of parks and public lands, water supply and sewage disposal, and transportation and utility services.

In July, the functions and personnel of the Board were transferred to the Division of Planning and Engineering, in the Department of Economic Development. The Federal National Resources Planning Board had been abolished in 1943.

As a result of the reorganization of State government, the Department of Conservation and Economic Development was established, and the state planning function was delegated to a section of the Bureau of Planning and Commerce, in the Division of Planning and Economic Development within the new department.

The first State Development Plan was published, and included among its proposals the construction of the Garden State Parkway, the New Jersey Turnpike, the Round Valley Reservoir site, the acquisition of the Wharton and Worthington tracts, and the acquisition and development of Island Beach as a State Park which had been proposed as early as 1935 by the State Planning Board. The planning section also continued to perform information gathering and assistance to local government functions.

In September, the Planning Section became a Bureau and the planning function was expanded, in part in response to the newly adopted Federal Housing Act of 1954 and section 701 of that act which authorized increased federal aid for planning assistance to small communities.

In February, the State's first 701 program was approved and the Bureau was involved in assisting localities involved in the program and in preparing special studies including the Meadowlands Development Study, the Pinelands Region Study, and the Newark Area Transportation Study.

In recognition of the great impact as well as the opportunity afforded planning by the Urban Renewal Program, the Bureau prepared an in depth analysis of the subject in the Northeastern New Jersey Urban Renewal Survey.

The Bureau was reorganized into two sections: one focusing on local and regional planning tasks, and the other on statewide planning functions.

In November at the Governor's request, a special interdepartmental Committee for State Planning was established with the planning bureau as staff. The Committee consisted of representatives of each of the Cabinet Commissioners. The Committee focused on capital improvements programming, trends analysis, and coordination activities.

The Bureau's Meadowlands project had given impetus to the creation of the Meadowlands Regional Development Agency by ordinances adopted by the 13 Hackensack Meadowlands municipalities. The project continued as an expanded major effort by the Bureau until 1968 when the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission was established by the state.

In July, the Bureau's request for $50,000 from the federal government was approved and more than matched by the state, and the preparation of what came to be called "the Horizon Plan" was begun. With the inception of the State Planning Board in 1934 there had been interest and reports in support of open space and park acquisition culminating in a report by the Bureau of State Planning in 1960 calling for a comprehensive bond authorization program.

In 1961, the voters agreed and authorized the 1961 Green Acres Bond Act which remains as an important planning policy tool for State and Local Governments.

In June, an Act creating the Division of State and Regional Planning within the Department of Conservation and Economic Development was adopted (Laws of 1961, c. 47). The preparation and maintenance of a comprehensive development plan was among the objectives of the new division.

A Capital Improvements Program (CIP) was developed in the early 1960's, and for several years an Annual Six-Year CIP was prepared cooperatively with the Division of Budget and Accounting of the Department of Treasury. One of the first reports of the new Division analyzed the structure and need for regional planning. Subsequent efforts were made to assist regional planning in Lake Hopatcong, Plainfield Area, Rancocas Valley and others.

By November, a report prepared by the Division of State and Regional Planning was presented by Governor Hughes recommending a new Department of Community Affairs where all functions of state government pertaining to communities could be centralized.

Continuing interest in open space by the Department of Conservation and Economic Development led the Division to prepare, with the aid of a consultant, the New Jersey Outdoor Recreation Plan. This was shortly followed with the New Jersey Open Space Policy Plan in 1967. This momentum led to the creation in 1968, by the Legislature, of the New Jersey Commission on Open Space Policy with the Director of the Division serving as Secretary to the Commission. A report was issued in 1971 calling for another bond authorization to acquire open space, several recommendations to improve the maintenance and delivery of recreation and the establishment of a "State Planning and Development Commission to provide a broad framework from which departmental, regional and local planning can effectively proceed." Subsequent reports prepared at Rutgers, Cook College in association with the Division attempted to implement recommendations on open space planning by analyzing Transfer of Development Rights, Growth Management Techniques and Current Planning Capacity.

Regional planning efforts took on new significance as the Tri State Transportation Committee was formed in 1965 and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission was formed in 1966. Both agencies were formed through an interstate compact to address the planning needs of the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. While initially concerned with transportation planning, later amendments authorized a full range of planning involvement in which the Division represented the Department. The Tri State Regional Planning Commission was named in 1971 and went out of existence in 1982. The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission continued as a regional planning entity.

The Divison of State and Regional Planning and its functions were transferred to the Department of Community Affairs when the Department was created in 1966 (Laws of 1966, c. 293), with the CIP function being turned over to the Division of Budget and Accounting in the Department of the Treasury.

During the sixties, the Division continued to provide assistance to localities, prepared special studies, and encouraged interagency coordination. In addition, it worked in conjunction with the Interdepartmental Committee to prepare the Horizon Plan and the Ten Million Plan. The Horizon Plan was developed as an ultimate holding capacity plan for New Jersey. The capacity of 20 million population was selected as a result of an analysis of all existing municipal master plans and zoning ordinances which, at their end state of development, would have accommodated this growth. This figure did not appear unrealistic in the mid 1960's because of the rapid growth then being experienced in New Jersey. Assured by the Interdepartmental Committee that natural resources, especially water supply, could support a 20 million population, the Horizon Plan evaluated a number of specific alternative land development patterns for consistency with the planning goals and selected a preferred plan. In addition, a more immediate shorter range plan was developed for the 10 million population level. However valuable these efforts may have been in guiding long-range planning efforts at the state level, neither was formally adopted and, by the end of the decade as other priorities of the Department of Community Affairs took precedence especially in housing and addressing urban unrest, the Interdepartmental Committee had ceased to function.

Between 1968 and 1973 several research reports concerning the need for housing and the scarcity of suitably zoned land were prepared by the Division. Accordingly, Governor Cahill issued a special message to the Legislature in December of 1970 in which a Governor's Housing Task Force was appointed with the Division to provide staff.

The Task Force work culminated in another special message to the Legislature in March 1972 which called for (1) a Uniform Construction Code, (2) revision of the Municipal Land Use Laws, (3) a voluntary Balanced Housing Plan, (4) a Community Development Corporation and (5) a State Planning Task Force.

The first four proposals were put into legislative form, but only the Uniform Construction Code and the overhaul of the local land use laws were enacted within the first five years. The final proposal, the State Planning Task Force, was created by executive order of the Governor in 1972.

In January, legislation was enacted creating the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission. For more than 10 years prior to the enactment, the Division of State and Regional Planning and its predecessors had been working with the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Meadowlands Regional Development Agency on a strategy for reclaiming and developing the Meadowlands. These efforts culminated as the new Department of Community Affairs was able to gather support for ultimate enactment of the HMDC.

In the latter part of December, Governor Cahill appointed the State Planning Task Force by executive order with the Division serving as staff. Comprised of state agencies and three citizen appointees, one of whom served as chair, the task force took depositions on planning from each department, held public hearings, and presented a report in early 1974 to incoming Governor Byrne.

The report concerned itself with the process of state planning, and considered a number of planning structures for state government as well as a system for land use guidance. The task force recommended a State Planning Council not unlike the future State Planning Commission enacted in 1985. Upon presentation of the report, the Task Force disbanded.

Similar to the recommendation of the Task Force for a land use guidance system, Governor Byrne's office drafted a Development Review Act geared to review major development projects for state input. Although introduced in the Legislature, it was not enacted.

At about the same time, partially in response to federal regulations requiring the preparation of a state land use element in order to qualify for further 701 funding, the Division began to prepare the State Development Guide Plan. Prior to an initial draft in October 1976, the Division surveyed each county planning agency throughout 1975.

These reviews and subsquent adjustments with county planners would continue throughout the preparation of the Guide Plan culminating in three way cross acceptance of plans between county planners, the Tri State Regional Planning Commission in northeast New Jersey and the Divison of State and Regional Planning. As a result of comments on the initial draft and discussion with other agencies, a preliminary draft was circulated for public review in 1977. All drafts and the subsequent 1980 Guide Plan were extensively discussed.

Between 1975 and 1980, the Division made 88 formal presentations with discussion, held 131 informal discussions with staff of other state and local agencies and received several hundred pieces of correspondence regarding the Guide Plan.

1975 also saw the institution of the first "Mount Laurel" New Jersey Supreme Court decision which recognized the responsibility of suburban communities to acknowledge regional housing needs and provide suitably zoned areas. Obligations of communities were to be determined by measuring their potential for development in their regional context.

Noting the continued scarcity of affordable housing following the Supreme Court Mount Laurel 1 decision, Governor Byrne issued Executive Order 35 which requested the preparation of a statewide Housing Allocation Plan that could be used by zoning litigants for assessing the reasonableness of housing needs by municipality. The Division of State and Regional Planning was charged with the task and issued a draft in 1976 and a revised report in May 1978. Similarities to the Cahill Voluntary Balanced Housing Plan were evident.

Governor Byrne signed an executive order which provided for a Pinelands Review Committee composed of citizen appointments and state agency heads. The Committee was charged to delineate a Pinelands Region and to develop a plan to guide state actions in the region. Because of its long interest, previous reports and participation in the Pinelands, the Division of State and Regional Planning was designated as staff to the Committee. Its report in 1979 recommended a Preservation Area, a Protection Area, and development controls which became the keystones of the Pinelands protection strategy and the basis for the Executive Order for a Moratorium on Development in the Pinelands signed by Governor Byrne.

By June of 1979, the Pinelands Protection Act incorporating the recommendations of the Pinelands Review Committee was enacted to complement the Federal National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978 which established the Pinelands National Reserve. The resulting plan assured the eligibility for federal funds for Pinelands protection.

In the summer, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development approved the State Development Guide Plan as the state's Land Use Element, thereby enabling continued participation in the federal Urban Planning Assistance Program. In October, Governor Byrne established the Governor's Office of Policy and Planning. As the new year began, the Governor's Chief of Staff organized the Cabinet Committee on Development Policy and Projects with the Director of the Office of Policy and Planning as its chair.

In May 1979, the Cabinet Committee took up the issue of the State Development Guide Plan and directed the Division of State and Regional Planning to continue the revision process in accordance with county comments. The revision process attempted to be as formal as possible. In northeastern New Jersey, a formal memo of cross acceptance was prepared between the Tri State Regional Planning Commission, each county planning board and the Division. In the rest of the state, the process was less formal but equally important. Despite the significant efforts on behalf of counties, the state agencies and the Division, the plan was viewed as the state's plan and not binding on the efforts of local levels of government.

In May, a revised draft of the State Development Guide Plan was published and circulated with public hearings in September. From this period until April 1981, the Cabinet Committee debated the merits of some form of adoption, finally recommending that the Governor adopt the plan. In response to two seperate requests by the Supreme Court in its deliberations which culminated in the Mount Laurel II decision, the Attorney General, in cooperation with the Division of State and Regional Planning, reported on the suitability of the 1978 Housing Allocation Plan and the 1980 State Development Guide Plan for use in "Mount Laurel" type litigation.

As a result of federal budget constraints, the federal government terminated the Urban Planning Assistance Program, referred to as "701" from the section of the Housing Act of 1954 which authorized it. For a little over 25 years, it was estimated that more than $50 million had been spent in assisting local, county, regional and state planning in New Jersey. The Division prepared a report analyzing the comments on the 1980 State Development Guide Plan.

In January, the New Jersey Supreme Court in its Mount Laurel II decision reaffirmed the principles laid down in Mount Laurel I and changed the obligation for low and moderate income housing from communities in the path of development to those communities identified in the State Development Guide Plan as having a growth designation. The court emphasized its preference for a state plan and provided a vehicle for lower courts to compel housing construction called a "builders remedy." Later in the spring the Division of State and Regional Planning fell victim to a general cutback in the state budget and was abolished.

By the end of the summer, the Ad Hoc Committee on State Planning was formed to search for a state planning vehicle and legislation was drafted to create a State Planning Commission. Following the Supreme Court Mount Laurel II decision, many individual suits were instituted to test, among other things, the logic of the State Development Guide Plan but none were successful in discrediting the Guide Plan or provoking a change by the Court.

The Ad Hoc Committee was reconvened and drafted the Fair Housing Act to address mounting Mount Laurel II pressure in the lower courts.

In July, the Fair Housing Act was enacted into law creating an alternative to court ordered builders remedies in the form of a Council on Affordable Housing. The Council is required to validate locally prepared housing plans that are found to be consistent with Council rules and regulations. In doing so, the Council is directed to duly consider the State Development and Redevelopment Plan and other data prepared by the State Planning Commission. Similarities in the Fair Housing Act can be traced to the voluntary Balanced Housing Plan of Governor Cahill 13 years earlier.

In January 1986 Governor Kean signed into law the State Planning Act which provided for the State Planning Commission, established the Office of State Planning in the Department of the Treasury to provide staff, and directed that a State Development and Redevelopment Plan be prepared. In February 1986 the Supreme Court held the Fair Housing Act to be constitutional and and permitted transfer of all matters before the court to the Council on Affordable Housing.

In a footnote, the Supreme Court observed that the Council on Affordable Housing would have the responsibility to determine the locus of municipal housing obligation until a State Development and Redevelopment Plan was prepared by the State Planning Commission.

In September 1986 the State Planning Commission held its first meeting and hired an Executive Director. In November 1986 the Office of State Planning hired its first staff and the State Planning Commission established a list of State Plan Goals.

The State Planning Commission released the first Preliminary State Development and Redevelopment Plan, initiating the first State Plan cross-acceptance process.

In November, the State Planning Commission approved an Interim State Development and Redevelopment Plan.

The first impact assessment study on the State Plan was published by the Rutgers University Center for Urban Policy Research in February 1992. Following public hearings in each of New Jersey's 21 counties, the first State Development and Redevelopment Plan was adopted by the State Planning Commission on June 12. A report on State Plan implementation issues was also released by the Commission on the same date.

A program for brownfields redevelopment was established in the Office of State Planning in June. A first Reexamination Report and the second Preliminary State Development and Redevelopment Plan were released by the Commission in September to initiate the second round of cross-acceptance.

A Brownfields Redevelopment Task Force was established and staffed by the Office of State Planning pursuant to statute.

A Smart Growth Planning Grant program was established, appropriating $3 million per year in state funds for several years for grants to counties and municipalities to assist local efforts to incorporate State Plan and "smart growth" principles in local planning and development regulation.

An impact assessment study on the 1999 Interim State Development and Redevelopment Plan was completed by the Rutgers University Center for Urban Policy Research in September 2000. A Draft Final Plan incorporating revisions from the study and from public comments during preparation of the study was released by the Commission in October 2000. Public hearings were held in all 21 counties from November through January 2001.

The State Planning Commission adopted the second State Plan on March 1, 2001. The Office of State Planning co-sponsored a series of Mayor's Institutes on Community Design based on a national program. A series of Smart Growth Planning Grants were awarded to school districts to encourage greater connection between school facilities and overall neighborhood and community needs.

Office of State Planning renamed Office of Smart Growth to reflect its action-oriented mission to promote well-planned, well-managed growth that adds new homes and creates new jobs, while preserving open space, farmland, and environmental resources.

Office of Smart Growth moved to Department of State and renamed Office for Planning Advocacy.

The efforts of the Office of Planning Advocacy are currently focused on the Plan Endorsement process for those municipalities that have expressed an interest in extending their Center designation. If you are a municipality with a Center affected by this deadline, please contact the Office of Planning Advocacy at 609-292-7156 for more information.


Page Last Updated: 10/03/22



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