Archive for April, 2013

A Question of Balance

April 1st, 2013 No comments

Highlands Council Chairman Seeks “Balanced Approach” Not Authorized by Law


Why do we never get an answer
When we’re knocking at the door
With a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war?
‘Cause when we stop and look around us
There is nothing that we need
In a world of persecution that is burning in its greed  ~~~ (Question, 1970 –Listen)

That’s one of my favorite Moody Blues albums, from a wonderful time in my life.

Which takes us to the question of balance.

I just saw the question framed this way, from the “Message from the Chairman” Mr.  Rilee, in the Highlands Council’s just released 2012 Annual Report, which says this:

The Highlands Act requires a regional and balanced approach to protecting the resources of the Highlands Region, which are critical not only to its residents, but those outside the Region who rely on the Highlands for clean and abundant drinking water.

That is flat out false.

The Highlands Act does NOT require “balance”  – and it doesn’t even allow “balance” or authorize the Council to  engage in “balancing”.

Maybe Mr. Rilee got his incorrect legal guidance from the new legal advisor.

Perhaps that is why the Annual Report itself, a document written by professionals, uses the word “balance” just once, with respect to growth in Centers located in the planning area.

The Highlands Act uses the word “balance” 7 times. Five of these are related to financial balances, one is from a provision of the legislative standard under the State Planning Act, and the other one is related to “a balanced transportation system” (read the Act and confirm that for yourself).

There  is no such “balanced approach” that Mr. Rilee seeks authorized under the Act.

In fact, just the opposite is true.

The Act’s overall planning objective for the Preservation Area (preservation is a term used over 100 times in the Act) is just that, preservation.

Here is the legislative finding in that regard:

that the State should take action to delineate within the New Jersey Highlands a preservation area of exceptional natural resource value that includes watershed protection and other environmentally sensitive lands where stringent protection policies should be implemented 

The legislative goals for the Master Plan in the Preservation Area are set forth in Section 10. b.

They are overwhelmingly driven by preservation, ecological integrity, water constraints, and environmental protection, not a “balanced approach”.

Even in the less protected Planning Area, the Council may accommodate growth, but any allowable growth must be compatible with sustaining ecological integrity and protection of water resources.

This still is not the “balanced approach” Mr. Rilee advocates (perhaps he’s confused – “balance” of multiple planning objectives is the framework authorized by the State Planning Act –

Perhaps this could be why the new legal advisor advocated abolition of the Council and transfer of its planning powers to the State Planning Commission, where such “balancing” is used to promote growth.}

The Legislature – in passing the Highlands Act – simply did not authorize the Council to engage in the kind of “balanced approach” sought by Mr. Rilee.

[Full disclosure: we questioned Mr. Rilee’s credibility  during his confirmation.]

I guess it  is a good thing the economy is in recession – if not, Rilee would be pushing all sorts of inappropriate development.

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