As we head toward the November elections, suburban sprawl has already staked a claim as a front-burner issue. Homeowners worry about it. Elected officials, from the municipal level all the way up to the Statehouse, debate how to stop it.
Farmers have mixed feelings about it, wondering whether we can control sprawl without drastically reducing land values and the rights of private property owners.
Solutions for stopping suburban sprawl are complex. One perfect plan to stop sprawl-type overdevelopment of New Jersey’s rural and suburban communities does not exist.
However, there are tools at our disposal to help direct growth into appropriate areas while respecting the rights of those who own the land.
For example, the State Planning Commission readopted the New Jersey State Develop-ment and Redevelopment Plan (SDRP) earlier this year.
This document contains many references to planning and zoning tools. The plan supports the viability of the farming industry as well as preserving open space for both recreation and agriculture.
Additionally, New Jersey already has one of the most aggressive land preservation programs in the nation. Both the Farmland Preservation and Green Acres programs aim to preserve a combined 1 million acres of New Jersey’s open space and farmland by the year 2010.
With each acquisition (whether it’s an outright purchase of the land or simply the purchase of development rights) we come one step closer to reaching our goal and protect one more precious piece of open space from development.
Working together to find creative solutions that work for each community is the great task before us.
But before gubernatorial candidates and those running for the Legislature rush headlong to seek a magic formula, they need to know that there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work from High Point to Cape May.
They also must understand that tools exist to curb sprawl, preserve New Jersey’s farmland and protect the rights of those who own open space — goals each us of should strive for.
With vision and a sense of fair play, we can make those tools work in each of New Jersey’s unique communities.
John I. Rigolizzo Jr.
New Jersey Farm Bureau