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State Planning Commission Delays Adoption of Christie Strategic Plan

Sandy exposed fatal flaws in failing to address climate change, land use, and infrastructure

A huge opportunity for positive change – I urge my friends to go large.

[Update: 11/14/12 - Tom Johnson at NJ Spotlight covers the hearing well:

Administration Fails to Push Revised State Plan Through at Contentious Hearing:

[...]

“This plan cannot be a framework for coastal recovery,’’ said Bill Wolfe, director of the New Jersey chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). He criticized the revision as an economic development strategy that ignores the land-use mandates at the core of the prior state plan. – end update]

The State Planning Commission met this morning.

The published agenda for the meeting – public noticed late friday, a move that prompted criticism from all quarters as limiting public review – was to finally adopt the Christie Administration’s “Strategic Plan”, it’s version of the State Development and Redevelopment Plan.

The Commission pulled the vote at the last minute and instead had the plan up for discussion only.

At a time when DEP Commissioner Martin is denying any state role in coastal redevelopment and already has deregulated the rebuilding of critical public infrastructure, thank goodness sounder judgement prevailed and someone at the State level assumed responsibility.

(Riffing on the cliff motif, what I called a “step back from the land use cliff”).

At the start of the meeting, the Commission immediately went into a brief executive session and returned shortly to issue a brief prepared statement, explaining the rationale for postponing a vote on adoption of the final Plan.

The Commission expressed sympathy for families and businesses impacted by Sandy. They expressed hope that the State was getting back to business, so important matters could continue.

Perhaps in recognition of the criticism of the friday afternoon public notice, the Commission noted that many haven’t had ample opportunity to review the changes to the final version of the Plan. They claimed that those changes incorporate public comment, leading to a better plan.

At the same time, however, professionals in the Office of Planning Advocacy recommended postponing adoption today – because “mother nature had other ideas”.

Importantly, the statement emphasized that the final Plan could be “a framework for rebuilding the coast”, but that there need to be “further additions with long term coastal recovery in mind.”

The Commission pledged to “do additional outreach to impacted stakeholders“, alluding to those impacted by Sandy and those looking to redevelop the shore.

During public testimony, leaders of environmental groups criticized the Christie Plan as promoting development at the expense of the environment, particularly in the Highlands.

ANJEC, The Affordable Housing Coalition, and NJ Future continued to support the framework of the plan, but called for more details, especially on locational and natural resource criteria to identify where development should occur and where environmentally sensitive lands should be preserved.

I reiterated the highlights of my prior “Yes Men” testimony, where I focused on fatal flaws in the plan (for substance, see this and this and this).

Sandy had vindicated those views and has shone a bright light on the fatal flaws in Christie’s “Strategic Economic Development Plan”:

  • A Strategic Economic Development Plan can not substitute for a Land Use Plan
  • the Christie Plan fails to seriously engage climate change policy
  • the Christie Plan fails to address infrastructure deficits, vulnerability, and investment finance

Here were my main talking points:

1) The shore devastation is a final wakeup call, so that we now take climate change and extreme weather seriously.

2) The shore devastation requires that State Government step up and get involved in land use planning for “strategic retreat” and rebuilding.

3) The shore devastation requires that infrastructure vulnerability and resilience be addressed substantively.

4) Sandy made a mockery of Christie’s economic development strategy and shows that economic development is reliant on functioning natural systems and reliable infrastructure.

5) The Christie Strategic Plan is not an appropriate framework for shore redevelopment  because it lacks a land use planning orientation and adequate infrastructure policies. Nor is the Commission the appropriate governing body.

Instead, there needs to be a broader legislative and public dialogue, and a new institution  formed. I suggested a Coastal Commission.

After an hour or so of gibberish attacks from delusional Tea Party types, the Commission adjourned.

But not before the Chairman made a strong personal statement about the new reality of global warming.

Overall, I was encouraged by the OPA recommendations and the Commission’s good judgment to table the Christie plan in light of Sandy and coastal redevelopment needs.

There could be a huge opportunity for positive change here –

I urge my friends to go large on global warming, adaptation, and coastal land use planning, including calling for legislative oversight hearings and a new Coastal Commission!

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  1. Scott Olson
    November 13th, 2012 at 16:55 | #1

    Bill – I agree – go large! But it’s not just coastal issues that need to be dealt with. The last four “events” here in North Jersey (TS Irene, TS Lee, the OctSnowber Storm & Superstorm Sandy) have shown us serious flaws in our planning, stormwater, transportation and utility infrastructure, and response/preparedness in inland areas as well. More flooding, transportation & utility failures, and greater disruptions of our lifestyle are more and more certain as extreme weather and its impact becomes the new normal, unless we start planning better.

  2. November 14th, 2012 at 09:50 | #2

    @Scott Olson

    Scott – I completely agree, did not mean to imply that this was only a coastal issue, and sorry for not making the inland issues more clear.

    We can address some of them via infrastructure, which includes the grid and energy policy stuff.

    But there is only so much that can be loaded onto the Christie Strategic Plan – I tried to make it clear that that Plan and the State Planning Commission should not become the excuse for cover for doing little on shore vulnerability and rebuild issues.

    Now is the time to excavate the late 1980′s work on a Coastal Commission!

  1. November 15th, 2012 at 10:42 | #1
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