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State Plan

Statewide policies to coordinate government actions to direct government investments and regulated
development into areas with infrastructure and preserve the environment


The State Planning Act describes the State Plan as the expression of the state's intent to coordinate government investments, planning and regulatory activities to achieve statewide objectives in the following areas: land use, housing, economic development, transportation, natural resource conservation, agriculture and farmland retention, recreation, urban and suburban redevelopment, historic preservation, public facilities and services, and intergovernmental coordination (NJSA. 52:18A-200(f) Adobe PDF icon 103kb)

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The 1987 State Planning Act extended regional planning to the entire state by calling for the creation of a State Development and Redevelopment Plan. The State Planning Act mandated that the Plan provide a mechanism to achieve a series of quality-of-life and economic goals for the benefit of the whole state. The State Planning Act requires that the Plan “identify areas of growth, limited growth, agriculture, open space conservation and other appropriate designations that the Commission may deem necessary.” 
The State Planning Commission adopted the first Plan in 1992 after a unique consensus building process (Cross-Acceptance) that incorporated state, county and municipal recommendations on land use and infrastructure. Using the same process, the Commission revised and readopted the Plan in 2001.

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The 2012 State Plan

The Commission released a draft of the third version of the State Plan in November 2011 as the State Strategic Plan. The 41-page Plan is different from the two lengthy plans that preceded it.  Its emphasis is on economic growth, and although it also discusses open space preservation, it does not offer measures for environmental protection.  Instead, it calls for focusing State policies and investments in “vibrant regions,” fostering critical job growth, supporting effective regional planning and preserving the State’s critical resources. Functional plans and regulations of State agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Protection or the Board of Public Utilities, will be required to agree with the Plan.

The Goals of the 2012 Plan are:

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The State Plan Map

Previous versions of the State Plan had a Policy Map which  identified how the policies in the State Development and Redevelopment Plan (SDRP) were to be applied in areas for growth, limited growth, agriculture, open space and conservation as required by the State Planning Act. The Map shows Planning Areas (PA), depicting areas of environmental sensitivity, areas of existing infrastructure, areas appropriate for agriculture and Centers. The five major Planning Areas each based on established criteria:

The 2012 Plan calls for phasing out the State Plan Policy Map in 2013. It proposes mapping Priority Growth Investment Areas through use of Criteria adopted by the State Planning Commission.

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In February 2012, the Commission released “Priority Investment Area Criteria” which define the areas for growth and preservation required by the State Planning Act. The Criteria were released as an “Advance Notice of Rules,” with a formal proposal of rules expected later in 2012. Under the proposed Criteria, development is preferred in the Priority Growth Investment Areas. It also offers Alternate Growth Investment Areas should have planned or existing infrastructure and also may be able to get State funding to stimulate growth.  Priority Preservation Investment Areas are areas where land preservation, agriculture, historic or environmental protection is preferred.

The Criteria state that the State Planning Act has no authority to regulate the use of land.  Instead local governments “independently make planning and zoning decisions but ultimately these decisions remain the prerogative of local government.”  So with this version of the State Plan, the responsibility of protecting the environment through zoning and other ordinances lies specifically with local governments.

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Involvement Opportunities for Environmental Commissions and Citizens

Environmental Commissions can play a role in the state planning process. As keepers of the municipal Environmental Resource Inventory (ERI), which should be the basis of land use planning in the municipal master plan, a commission should participate in the preparation of the new State Plan. Commissioners should review the draft State Strategic Plan when a new version is released and comment on places where local resource information or local policy does not seem to be accurately reflected in the state document. Commissions also should be consulted on how the goals of the State Plan can be met through local action.

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Information Sources

State Government

Other Organizations working on State Plan issues

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