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NAIOP New Jersey Public Policy Symposium: Partnerships are key to transforming N.J. towns

Friday, March 18, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 03/15/2016

As part of its commitment to partnering with local leaders to create outstanding live/work/play environments that are magnets for the employers, investments and young professionals New Jersey needs to prosper and grow, NAIOP New Jersey hosted a Mayors Panel at its Annual Public Policy Symposium at The Heldrich in New Brunswick. "All politics is local, and so is development," said NAIOP NJ President Clark Machemer of The Rockefeller Group. "Shifting demographics, rapidly changing technology and the economic challenges we all face make it more important than ever for the private sector to partner with government at all levels to bring jobs and investments to NJ towns." Lead-off speaker Chuck Richman, Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, focused on programs and improvements that will support local development, including the DCA's pending rule adoption to rein in permit and inspection fees for "big box" industrial facilities (the rules are expected to be adopted in May), and affordable housing, where the goal is to develop "site consistency, and municipal consistency – sensible, development-based standards." He admitted that government has "had trouble keeping up with technological innovation – we need to advance change. We're trying to bring the state into the modern era." Richman noted that online permitting "has saved $10 million a year for developers who have utilized it." Another initiative is "changing the paradigm of how we do the broader range of regulations," Richman said, urging that the state and municipalities look at "a national code process."

Melissa Orsen, CEO of the New Jersey EDA, explained that her agency is in "partnership with other agencies to provide affordable financing alternatives for towns and developers." To date, New Jersey "has made great strides in attracting businesses," she said, pointing to $13.4 billion of new public and private investment. programs such as Grow NJ and the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013. These programs have led to successes such as the ongoing redevelopment of the former Hoffman-LaRoche campus in Nutley, the new headquarters and training facility of the Philadelphia 76ers and other projects in Camden, redevelopment of the former Hahne's department store in Newark, and redevelopment of a former and long-dormant steel manufacturing facility in Trenton, among others.

Since many towns rely on state monies from the nearly depleted Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) for infrastructure repair, Trenton's response is to "do a lot of infrastructure work in-house," said Jackson. "We never touch the infrastructure part of our budget" in terms of possible cutbacks, said Barberio. "Still, we have to find a way to fund the TTF." Vergano noted that Wayne itself spends $2 million a year on the local road infrastructure." In other words, as TTF funds diminish, New Jersey's municipalities are increasingly responding with local funds.

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