Christie Announces New Strategic Plan; Causes Environmentalists To Question Priorities

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Gov. Chris Christie

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie announced a new State Strategic Plan on Wednesday, which he says will help New Jersey’s economy to grow and produce jobs. However, some worry that it puts economic growth ahead of the environment.

The governor’s plan sets aside the controversial State Plan Policy Map, which state officials spent years trying to achieve – with limited success – by trying to steer growth to established urban and suburban areas instead of open space and farmlands. The state’s efforts were hampered because various state agencies applied the plan inconsistently.

“New Jersey’s challenges are too great to be approached in the stratified, haphazard and unrealistic manner that has characterized previous statewide planning efforts. This is a plan that will foster job growth in a sensible, sustainable and truly effective manner over the long term,” said Christie. “By focusing our planning and economic development resources around common goals – better identifying and investing in vibrant regions and critical sectors of our economy, supporting effective regional planning, and preserving our invaluable natural resources – we are positioning New Jersey for sustained job growth, competitiveness and prosperity.”

Some environmental advocates expressed concerns about the impact of the new State Strategic Plan.

“This Plan is going to be used justify sprawl and overdevelopment to pave over New Jersey by weakening environmental protections and planning,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

The governor’s plan provides broad goals, but few specifics. For example, it talks about targeting economic growth in “Regional Innovation Clusters” that will take advantage of existing infrastructure, educational, intellectual and workforce resources to drive job creation and economic development, but it does not say where they would be located.

“Priority Growth Investment Areas” would grow and promote communities with access to quality education, housing, public transportation and infrastructure, parks and recreation, but the “criteria-based” process to identify them remains to be developed.

Though the plan mentions continued support for New Jersey’s preservation programs, it also notes that “well-planned ‘greenfield’ development will be necessary at times.”

Christie signed an executive order to create a steering committee headed by the lieutenant governor to implement the plan and make certain that state departments and agencies work together to achieve its goals.

Planning advocates responded favorably to the governor’s announcement.

PlanSmart NJ Executive Director Lucy Vandenberg noted, “We are pleased to see this Plan incorporate PlanSmart NJ’s principles of targeted geographic industry growth clusters and alignment of state agency regulations and resources to foster targeted smart growth areas.”

“PlanSmart NJ is poised to work with Governor Christie to refine and implement the new State Strategic Plan.” commented Ray Ferrara, Ph.D., chair of PlanSmart NJ. He continued, “We are bullish on this Plan.”

“New Jersey Future has long supported a state planning process that guides development and redevelopment to appropriate areas and protects our natural resources,” said New Jersey Future Executive Director Peter Kasabach. “No successful business can get where it wants to go without having a strategic plan. And no state can grow where it needs to grow without a clear strategy for investing in its long-term economic and environmental prosperity. We are pleased that the governor says he will take steps to make this happen, directing all state agencies to work collectively toward this common vision.”

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