Highlands Backfiring Or Working As Planned?

From the Daily Record:

Highlands law letting builders in front door

The nearly two-year-old law designed to protect the water supply from North Jersey’s Highlands seems to have had an unintended consequence — spurring development in half the environmentally sensitive region.

A Daily Record analysis of new residential building permits issued over the last 38 months found that development in towns in the part of the Highlands designated a “preservation area” and subject to strict state regulation has declined compared with the rate before the law. But in the other half of the region, called the “planning area,” the rate of development has risen faster than North Jersey or the state as a whole.

“The whole point of the Highlands Act was to try to slow things down,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Unfortunately, in the planning area, it has accelerated development.”

Tittel attributes the increase to the deliberate decision by the DEP to draw the map delineating the preservation area to exclude some 50 projects.

“There was a lot of science used to draw up the Highlands preservation area, then political science was used to protect some politically connected developers,” he said. “We’re seeing the results of those bad decisions now and it’s having a negative impact on the Highlands.”

Post said the act continues to show how unfair it is in the development occurring on land in the planning area, while it has slowed and will stop in the preservation area, where her land is located.

“People that owned land in sections of the planning area are experiencing windfall gains,” she said. “There has been an arbitrary redistribution of wealth in this act. And that redistribution had a lot of political payback in it.”

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37 Responses to Highlands Backfiring Or Working As Planned?

  1. UnRealtor says:

    “There was a lot of science used to draw up the Highlands preservation area, then political science was used to protect some politically connected developers,” he said.

    A classic line!

  2. NJGal says:

    Totally unrelated, but you have to check this strategy out…think it will become common?


  3. grim says:

    Faux-auctions? No. The real thing? Yes.


  4. Since this Law helps some folks (in planning area) by allowing to build & make big money (RE Boom time), and not allowing others, there is always going to be some who like & who don’t like the act.

    In my opinion, the whole NJ planning is just now politics. Depending on who is in power, that lobby wins. When Whitman was in Power, Builder had more say. Since Democrats are in power, Builders are not able to get lot of what they want.

    In this struggle, I think real victim is common NJ resident. We have high house prices for piece of crap.

  5. UnRealtor says:

    Interesting, that site:


    It would be funny if the house sold for $249,500.

    They have a fantastic presentation for the house, but it’s not a very exciting house…

    Also, “bidding” shouldn’t be by phone, as they’re doing, but instead have bidding in-person on the front lawn.

  6. Carbozo says:

    I know, this phone method is crap. If you’re a bidder and the owner calls you and tells you the last highest bid was 400K how do you know he’s not making that number up? The flip side is that if you hire a real auctioneer he or she usually take an obscene cut, at or near 10% I think. Still, this owner could still have a public auction without hiring an auctioneer by requiring bidders to have financing lined up already…

  7. bairen says:

    NJ does not need to protects its water supply. Any 3rd generational + New Jerseyan who does not have any health issues related to the enviornment is a medical marvel.

    We have nothing to fear from WMDs. If they are unleashed 2 things will dominate the North American landscape. Cockroaches and 3rd + generation New Jerseyans. Oh, and also their cloce cousins from Long Island.

    Does anyone else see how corrupt NJ is? Wait till these towns declare emminnet domain and bulldoze these new developemnts after the new owners are upside down on the note.

  8. UnRealtor says:

    Wealthy Escape Home Market

    April 19, 2006

    California’s wealthy investors are choosing to invest less and less in real estate, a trend that local experts say should serve as a beacon to all real estate investors in the county.

    In San Diego, financial advisors who work with some of the region’s wealthiest people are advising their clients to sell their investment properties. After a monumental run-up in home prices, they say, their clients are weary of holding onto investments too long and repeating the past mistakes of the dot-com bubble.


    (triple-click to select long links)

  9. NJGal says:

    I also think the house is kind of a dump. I will be curious to know what it sells for, if at all – it’s very close to Newark and Maplewood has almost 100 homes for sale…inventory increases weekly. Of course, 249K is pretty low, but still…

  10. Metroplexual says:

    This article is bogus. First of all the preservation are is mostly comprised of constrained land due to steep slopes, and difficult to obtain well water.

    As far as the science argument, to draw up the borders, the original Highlands Coalition delineation is based mostly on geology. But why is the Walkill watershed up in Vernon and Northern Sussex County part of the Highlands? It is NY’s water not NJ. That was a taking imo.

    As far as development accelerating there is basically no way you could do anything in the preservation area. No commercial or industrial uses are permitted and subdivisions require at minimum 25 acres or 46.5 acres. So if you are going to develop where else are you gonna go.

    in Warren and Sussex the total amount of development has been relatively static.

    Jeff Tittel is always trotted out for a sound bite. He sometimes makes sense but mostly he just a loon and from what I hear the enviros are seriously distancing themselves from him. Btw, my favorite quote of his (i don’t agree with it) his take on development of any kind “land cancer”.

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