By Brittany Shann
Town by town, a regional plan to protect water supply areas in Northern New Jersey is solidifying. On February 17, the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council announced they will more than double the amount of acreage that will be under the protection of the Highlands Regional Master Plan. They gained approval to mesh local and regional planning from three sprawling municipalities – West Milford, Rockaway Township, and Tewksbury. These approvals bring another 101,545 acres into conformance, with 83,106 in the Preservation area and 18,439 in the Planning area.
Including these newly acquired ones, the Highlands Council has approved petitions from sixteen municipalities across the New Jersey Highlands region. West Milford conformed for 51,848 acres, all in the Preservation Area; Rockaway Township conformed for 17,789 acres in the Preservation Area and 11,582 in the Planning Area; and Tewksbury conformed for 13,469 in the Preservation Area and 6,857 in the Planning Area.
There are currently 59 municipalities representing 97% of the Preservation Area and 34% of the Planning area that have submitted documents to the Highlands Council to conform local zoning with the regional master plan. Sixteen others have submitted a notice with intent to conform but have not filed a formal petition, which means they will not be granted approval until they do so. They still continue to work with the Highlands Council.
“We now have approved petitions for over one-third of the Preservation Area, which is a tremendous start to the Plan Conformance process,” Highlands Council Executive Director Eileen Swan said. “But we’re also seeing more interest from municipalities with lands in the Planning Area. To date, 10 of the 13 municipalities with Planning Area lands have voluntarily opted into conformance, including two municipalities entirely in the Planning Area. We continue to work to ensure protection of New Jersey’s critical water supplies while collaborating with municipalities to plan for a sustainable future. The fact that more municipalities are voluntarily coming into conformance shows that the program is working.”
The plans do not become effective until ten days after Governor Christie had time to read and review the minutes.
For more information, visit the Highlands Council Website at http://www.highlands.state.nj.us