No time for delays in N.J.'s rebuilding infrastructure


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Critics are lining up to denounce an order that will limit the permitting required to rebuild infrastructure destroyed when Sandy blew through the state.

This might come as a surprise to you. After all, when videos of the governor's aerial tour of the Shore circulated in the days just after the storm, there were calls by politicians, residents, regular visitors and even some journalists — who should have known better — saying Seaside and its surrounding communities would be rebuilt, in fact must be rebuilt for next summer's crowds. So it would make sense that you'd want to see construction crews out there yesterday, not to mention the immediate boost in employment such a boom would offer.

Naysayers point out that rushing back in means no chance to take a harder look at ways to protect coastal developments from such powerful storms. The problem with that is that development on barrier islands is inherently risky. Should people locate their homes and businesses on a narrow spit of land that's weathered two tropical storms in the last 14 months? Probably not, but try telling tourists who come to ride the Ferris wheel, eat funnel cake or imitate Snooki that they can't return to those places. It isn't going to happen. New Jersey's shore is one of the few assets that sets it apart as a destination, and from a tourism standpoint, that seawater may as well be lifesblood to the state's economy.

Developers shouldn't be given carte blanche to rebuild devastated areas, but it's critical that these communities get back on their feet as soon as possible. That means not just rebuilt homes and businesses, but roads, bridges, utility systems and the like. This isn't the kind of work that can be promised in time for next year's crowds even if the permitting process becomes lenient. The challenge for developers and regulators is striking a balance between relaxed standards that don't become giveaways, but saying there's no room to move on permits is not the way to start.

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