Restoration of the Urban Enterprise Zone, re-examination of the Garden State Growth Zones and changes to New Jersey’s Economic Redevelopment and Growth Program were among the recommendations for Gov.-elect Phil Murphy put forth by the Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition at an event held Dec. 5 by NAIOP New Jersey.
Made up of developers, lawyers, incentives consultants and even members of the governor-elect’s transition team, the coalition’s recommendations range from public incentives to local land use law and remediation.
“The first round, eight years ago, was heavily on the demand side,” said Ted Zangari, director of the Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition and chair of the law firm Sills Cummins & Gross’ Real Estate Department. “We were literally losing residents and businesses to other states. There was a much more intense outmigration of jobs and people. We started staunching the bleeding with some of the initiatives starting with Grow New Jersey.
“The next batch of initiatives is more on the supply side and keep the initiatives that were done eight years ago on the demand side and keeping them afloat because they could easily haste or angst over the budgetary situation in New Jersey. We’re trying to create a supply of land because we’re out of land near the port for industrial and in downtowns and around transit hubs.”
A group within the coalition chaired by Tom Banker of The Banker Group proposed, among other things, continuing the Grow NJ and Economic Redevelopment Growth Grant programs, with some adjustments.
In its recommendation, the group suggests reducing the minimum project size eligible for an ERGG grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. This, in theory, would ease the burden on small businesses by reducing capital investment and fees according to project size.
Changes recommended for the Economic Redevelopment and Growth Program include:
Providing more money for the NJEDA program, an incentive for developers and businesses to address revenue gaps in development projects, and managing it through annual or semiannual competitions based on set criteria, rather than on a first-come, first-serve basis;
Increased flexibility for Grow NJ award recipients to relocate so long as the new site meets the size requirements of eligible projects;
Re-examining Garden State Growth Zones under Grow NJ – applicants currently must make improvements of at least $5,000 to the first floor in an eligible area within one of five such zones: Atlantic City, Camden, Passaic, Paterson and Trenton;
Restoring the Urban Enterprise Zone Program, which expired last December. The program encouraged businesses to develop and create private-sector jobs through public and private investment;
Provide incentives for the construction of structured parking near train stations;
Expanding the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust, which is responsible for providing and administering low interest rate loans to qualified applicants to finance water-quality infrastructure projects;
Restructuring tax abatements so that they are effective in multiphased projects and extended for projects that provide affordable housing.
A group chaired by Irene Kropp of Langan Engineering & Environmental Services proposed adjustments to the Licensed Site Remediation Professional Program, developed almost 10 years ago as a way to facilitate cleanup of sites in a manner that is protective of public health and safety and the environment.
The coalition suggests moving New Jersey’s site remediation program to a department like the Department of Community Affairs, which can offer more universal guidelines on non-discharge conditions.
Other recommendations include:
Encouraging the use of alternative fill for redevelopment purposes;
Developing and implementing a risk-flexible cleanup program similar to those used in other states and by the federal government;
Developing a stormwater professional program that eliminates the need to get approvals from local, state, federal and other agencies;
Mending the marine fisheries program so it allows for increased ecotourism and expands fishing opportunities for New Jersey businesses.
Meryl Gonchar of Sills Cummis & Gross chairs the group that’s pushing for updating the current municipal land use law so the entitlement and approval process is more predictable and uniform. The group not only considers the lack of uniformity a nuisance for developers, but says it can be a detractor from investment altogether.
As it stands, every municipality has its own set of criteria for entitlements and approvals, which the group says makes providing something as basic as a timeline on the process a problem.
Other recommendations made by the group include:
Reducing or eliminating procedural fees and costs for developments that include affordable housing;
Adjusting the parking requirements for developments near train stations;
Implementing parking maximums as a response to ride-sharing and the coming of driverless cars;
Allowing developers to obtain a liquor licenses in the form of a concessionary permit if a project that includes selling alcoholic beverages is built on state-owned land.
Finally, a group chaired by Morris Davis of Rutgers University called for making the development of large sites a more efficient process.
The group suggests incentivizing remediation and the selling of parcels that allow for continuity of a large site. In some ways, this means repurposing government-owned facilities to allow for large developments near the ports.
It may also mean the government and state would need to work together to be able to sell strategic land to a developer.
Morris and his group have also suggested that for privately owned land, the state could use tools such as condemnation to push owners to sell.
And looking long-term, the group recommends allowing for the state to create redevelopment zones around any site it wishes to see redeveloped.