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Monday, August 11, 2008

Planners handed "green" tool with bill's passage

Planning board throughout New Jersey now have a state-endorsed ability to include sustainability and green structure schemes within their municipal master plans, after Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed a bill legalizing such elements into law last week.

As one of the supreme planning tools utilized by municipal planners, master plans allow people on the planning board and in other municipal planning capacities to lay out local planning goals for a six-year period, in a structured document.

Enabling state law that dictated what municipal planning officials could include in such a document had not yet been modernized to allow officials to address the growing litany of environmental and sustainability issues facing local planners today.

But the new law, bill A-1559, allows them to do that through updating state law by including a fifteenth area among the optional sections of master plans, where planners can promulgate an environmental sustainability and green buildings plan.

The law states that such a section will allow planners to “provide for, encourage, and promote the efficient use of natural resources; consider the impact of buildings on the local, regional and global environment; allow ecosystems to function naturally,; conserve and reuse water; treat stormwater on-site; and optimize climactic conditions through site orientation and design.”

Sponsors of the bill applauded its passage into law.

“As more and more State residents are becoming aware of terms like ‘carbon footprint’ and making environmentally-conscious decisions, it’s time local government followed suit,” said Senator Smith, D-Middlesex, a bill sponsor and chair of the Senate Environment Committee. “We need to set the example for our constituents that environmentalism and progress are not mutually-exclusive. By giving municipalities more latitude in going green when making zoning plans for the future, we can send a strong message to State residents about the importance of protecting our shared environment.”

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