the New Urbanism – is it appropriate for the Pinelands?
Smart Growth, the "New Urbanism," promises development that is environmentally, fiscally, and economically smart. Is it appropriate to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to encourage Pinelands redevelopment schemes? I suggest that the wishes of local politicians do not always reflect those of their constituents.
When asked in a survey (Goertzel and Leonardis 2006) what they hated most about South Jersey, residents overwhelmingly cited sprawl. This survey of 444 residents was conducted in the fall of 2000. The interviewees responded: overdevelopment, too many houses, too much traffic- 51%; insurance too expensive- 27%; taxes too high 26%; not enough to do- 19%; pollution- 19%; problems of the older cities such as Camden- 17%; climate 12%; poor shopping- 9%; poor schools- 8%; people not friendly- 7%.
I again present a figure showing a proposed Pinelands redevelopment project called Comar Place, funded by a NJDCA Smart-Growth study grant. The project was overwhelmingly approved by the municipality as Pinelands ready, and permits a maximum impervious cover of 65% (Comar Place/Pine Road Redevelopment Area – Redevelopment Plan, p. 39). So which version of Comar Place best fits NJ residents' wishes, and which one represents the politicians'? After all, it is our money they spend.
The figure below represents a before-and-after view of Pine Road and US Route 40, Buena, NJ. Most of the proposed growth area is original woods within the Rural-Development zone, with a small portion (3.68%) designated Pinelands Town. The stated reasons for need of redevelopment is that the area has remained unimproved for over 10 years and it is remote, which pretty much qualifies Pinelands forests and wetlands as Smart-Growth appropriate land.
I too wrote a polite, thoughtful, but pointed note to the senator. A couple more dispatches and we might just make a difference! We need to ensure that the government works for us by participating. At least that is what it says in the owner’s manual.
Pinelands faring slightly better than southern New Jersey
So let me get this right, stringent environmental controls and building restrictions made the Pine Barrens better off economically than the rest of South Jersey. National Geographic Adventure (September 2007: 87) picked a Pinelands Village as one of the top 50 adventure towns in the USA for its quality of life. Buena Vista Township, a Pinelands municipality, was named the kindest town in New Jersey (2001). Then why-the-heck should the Pinelands Commission abandon an obviously suitable model of sustainability via the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP), and instead choose to abet entrepreneurial politicians to chase speculative schemes through memorandums-of-agreements and CMP exceptions. Overdevelopment got places like Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Miami into financial straits, so let’s follow them!
In exception to otherwise OK news, the Council Chairman had reason for pessimism. Richland Village languished despite millions spent towards revitilization, while the rest of the Pinelands – without government welfare – fared comparatively well.
I just received a response back from Dr. van Drew, which seemed to follow a boilerplate format. He stated in brief,
“I very much appreciate your candid comments… I also am grateful for how deeply you care about the environment in general and the Pinelands in particular.”
“I want to assure you that I and my Assembly colleagues, Nelson Albano and Matt Milam, will continue to do what we can to ensure the future of the Pinelands as a very special place. While you and I may not agree on every single issue, I certainly believe that we agree on the vast majority of matters involving the Pinelands.”
It was nice to have a reply, but it would have been even better to hear sound justification for killing Niles’ appointment to the Pinelands Commission.