[Market-farming] question about zoning

bob111higgins at comcast.net bob111higgins at comcast.net
Sun Nov 2 10:19:02 EST 2003

Hi All,

I agree strongly with Robert's defense of sustainable zoning. I live in NJ just north of Trenton in one of the last semi-ag areas of central NJ. Water and soil sustainability is critical here, as most of the Twp. draws from wells and uses septics. Studies have shown that our shale soils and limited water generally won't sustain high-density development, and we all know that sewers and public water bring a level of development that we do not want. 

Our re-zoning here (and I was on the local council that did it) went basically to 6 acres and 13 acres in two different zones, based on sustainability. It was controversial for the very reasons mentioned by the original posting. We also took out almost all future office park and commercial zoning, since the previous council had approved development of about 16 million sq. ft. (the mythical and unwinnable 'clean ratables chase') that ate up farmland and that will burden us will traffic and demand for services forever.

To offset the reduction of land sale opportunities, we can offer buyouts of development rights to farmers and other landowners who are committed to preserving their land. We have a state ag preservation program, very active non-profits (which focus mostly on open space rather than farmland), and county and local preservation taxes which also contribute. These preservation offers are made based on market value. However, landowners around here are often sold a bill of goods by developers who make inflated offers contingent upon x number of houses being approved. After the approval process, it's usually x-30% due to percs, water, setbacks, roads, wetlands, etc, and the landowner gets basically what he would have received from a preservation offer anyway. That's a hard point to get across. Projections are that NJ will be the first of 50 states to run out of developable land, and once it's gone, it's gone forever.

Bob Higgins
Red Brick Farm
Hopewell, NJ

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