Home > Uncategorized > Gov. Tom Kean Killed The State Plan: The Truth On The Toothless State Plan Finally Comes Out After 40 Years

Gov. Tom Kean Killed The State Plan: The Truth On The Toothless State Plan Finally Comes Out After 40 Years

Gov. Kean Directed State Planners To Kill Regulatory Power & Preserve “Home Rule”

Revelation A Serious Blow To Kean’s Legacy

The Worship of Mammon

The Worship of Mammon

I had to stop work on part 2 of my endocrine disruptor story for this one!

We’ve railed against the toothless NJ State Development And Redevelopment Plan (State Plan) for decades now, a plan my friend and former colleague Bill Neil (then head of Conservation at a very different from current NJ Audubon) called “the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the people of NJ”.

NY Times:

In rural Hopewell, the referendum was spurred by a debate over a proposed nine-mile sewer link with Trenton that would serve a planned 2,000-unit housing development and 3.5-million-square-foot office park where soybean fields and forested wetlands now lie, said Bill Wolfe, the policy director for the Sierra Club of New Jersey.

”The people in the community are gravely concerned that the impacts will overwhelm their community with rapid and uncontrolled development,” he said. ”The schools are already at capacity.”

But those critiques  – what The NY Times once dubbed a “mom’s issue – and the prominent land use debates – like the State Plan itself – have long fallen off the media radar, the agenda of so called planning advocates, the environmental group’s campaigns, and the Trenton policy agenda.

A brief history is in order.

The State Planning Act was signed into law by Gov. Kean in 1986.

Gov. Florio issued an Executive Order to put DEP regulatory teeth in the State Plan.

That Florio policy was reversed when Gov. Whitman transformed the State Plan into an economic development tool (but at least retained the land use orientation).

Believe it or not, in contrast to today’s news blackout, once upon a time, there was substantive accountability on Whitman’s environmental policy record, and the State Plan played a role, i.e. see this NY Times article;

Gov. Christie retained the State Plan’s land use focus, but went beyond Whitman’s economic growth focus to use the State Plan as a vehicle to promote his deregulatory polices,  see: Gov. Christie introduces ‘State Strategic Plan’ to generate economic growth.

But, ignored by today’s lapdog media, current Gov. Murphy has completely abandoned the land use focus and turbo charged the State Plan as an economic development tool and State corporate subsidy program (i.e. Murphy views planning as a “Business Action Center”)

But the recent warehouse war has put the State Plan back on the radar screen.

So today, aside from being appalled by NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle’s false claim that the NJ Constitution includes a home rule provision (see End Note below for the demand for correction I sent him), I almost fell off the chair upon reading an incredible extensive and confessional quote by Jim Gilbert about the origin of the State Plan.

I had recently harshly criticized Mr. Gilbert for his failure to honestly acknowledge and take responsibility for the flaws in the State Plan, see:

But Mr. Gilbert told the truth today, and he blamed Gov. Tom Kean for gutting the State Planning Act, killing it in its crib! Check this out: (NJ Spotlight)

As an author of the 1986 State Planning Act, Gilbert said he and other drafters were told by the administration at the time to remove language that would dilute home-rule power while building up regional or statewide authority over the planning process.

“The reason given to us for this weakening of the proposed act was that the individual towns, represented by among others the League of Municipalities, would never give up the immense monopoly power they had over growth in the state,” he said. “The governor and legislative leaders knew that to convince the collective towns and cities to give up this power, they would have to offer something in return. Furthering the public good was not enough.”

The latest attempt to establish statewide or regional planning policy is doomed to fail for the same reason, Gilbert argued.

“Hope springs eternal among planners,” he said. “But we don’t seem to be willing to learn from our mistakes. So here we have again another toothless wish list of wonderful things for towns to do.”

But that’s not the whole truth – the State Plan could have ben regulatory (at least on the coast): (State Planning Act):

The State Planning Commission may adopt, after the enactment date of P.L. 1993, c. 190 (C. 13:19-5.1 et al.), the coastal planning policies of the rules and regulations adopted pursuant to P.L. 1973, c. 185 (C. 13:19-1 et seq.), the coastal planning policies of the rules and regulations adopted pursuant to subsection b. of section 17 of P.L. 1973, c. 185 C. 13:19-17) and any coastal planning policies of rules and regulations adopted pursuant to P.L. 1973, c. 185 (C. 13:19-1 et seq.) thereafter as the State Development and Redevelopment Plan for the coastal area as defined in section 4 of P.L. 1973, c. 185 (C. 13:19-4). L.1985, c. 398, eff. Jan. 2, 1986. Amended by L. 1993, c. 190, eff. July 19, 1993.

So, next time you pay your huge property tax bill; get stuck in traffic; get wiped out by a flood; yearn for open space, a small patch of nature or forest, or lost rural character; or wonder why the racially segregated and sprawled out NJ landscape looks the way it does, blame Gov. Kean!

[Full Disclosure: I studied regional planning for 2 years at Cornell Graduate School’s program in City And Regional Planning (satisfied the coursework for the Masters Degree), I passed the NJ Civil Service test for “environmental planner”, and served in that professional job title at DEP for over a decade, but I never practiced any land use or environmental planning!

[End Note: NJ Spotlight falsely reported that the NJ Constitution has a “home rule” provision. Here’s my note to reporter Jon Hurdle and his editor demanding a correction of that huge error:

Jon – you reported as fact that home rule is in the NJ Constitution. Who told you that? Senator Turner? You wrote:

“Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer), who represents West Windsor, said she would like to introduce a bill that gives legal backing to the commission’s guidelines, and is seeking advice from the Office of Legislative Services on whether any such measure would conflict with home-rule provisions in the state Constitution.”

That is false. There is no “home rule” provision in the NJ Constitution. That an excuse for failure to act.

Read the Constitution:


Read the below law review article which makes that clear:

“This article theorizes that the near universal, but erroneous, view of New Jersey as a home rule state contributes significantly to a mischaracterization ….

The Clash of Home Rule and Affordable Housing


Please correct a major fact and legal error in your story.


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