HANOVER TWP. – Representatives from the New Jersey Highlands Council met with the township committee in a committee working session on Thursday, October 28 to discuss the possibility of the township working with the council.
The committee did not vote on the issue but seemed very interested in continuing the conversation.
Highlands Council Executive Director Lisa Plevin and Planning Director Maryjude Hadock-Weiler addressed the committee.
The Highlands Council first met with then-mayor Ronald Francioli in October 2018. The committee contacted the council and scheduled a presentation for the October 28 meeting.
Plevin noted that when the Highlands Act was passed, the Legislature gave the council an annual credit to support the work of interested municipalities in complying with the Highlands Act and the Regional Master Plan and being offered non-competitive plan compliance grants.
The Highlands Act seeks legislation that sets out a comprehensive approach to protecting the water and other natural resources of the Highlands of New Jersey in the state.
There are two sections of the Highland Region, the Preservation Zone where compliance with the Highland Master Plan is required, and the Planning Zone where is optional for the community if they decide to work with the Highlands Council. The canton of Hanover is entirely within the planning zone.
Those in the planning zone can always opt out of their agreement with the Highlands Council, Plevin said.
“There are only two categories of entities that are eligible for municipal government and county government,” Plevin said. “Grants only fund incidental costs such as planning, design and engineering. They don’t fund fixed costs, infrastructure and so on. We can help fund the projects that (the municipalities) were going to pursue anyway.
Plevin explained if a city has a project and explains what it is to council staff, “the chances are very high that we can fund it through our planned performance grant program,” Plevin said.
Mayor John Ferramosca noted that the township has launched what he called a “fantastic program” in terms of developing a trail system as part of the Patriots Path.
“The township has really focused and saved in as little as five to seven years on building our trail system,” said Ferramosca. “We want to unify the whole township and we want to connect with other municipalities.
“It will be perfect,” Plevin said. “We like to support trails and recreation.
Plevin noted that a seven-mile trail around the Boonton Reservoir open to the public will be built. “We helped fund this to the tune of about $ 100,000,” she said.
Haddock-Weiler said the towns and counties the Highlands Council has worked with almost always have common goals between us, “both set out in municipal planning documents, compare very closely with those set out in the plan. regional director. And our approach is to allow the county municipality to let its priorities take over. “
Haddock-Weiler said the reasons communities should work with the Highlands Council include advanced municipal planning sessions, direct growth to areas most suitable for growth, protection and enhancement of open spaces, natural resources, solving transport problems and improving stormwater management by reducing flooding.
Haddock-Weiler called it “a collaborative process driven by municipal needs. The objectives of the canton of Hanover are also objectives of the Highlands Council.
Ferramosca noted that “the real world is.
“This is what we struggle with every day and frankly we don’t have a lot of support at all to deal with these issues,” the mayor said. “However, you talk about key issues. Apart from what comes from the municipality, we are faced with a lot of mandates.
The township “wants to maintain the suburban roots of this township,” Ferramosca said. “He has a wonderful history dating back to the War of Independence. We want to maintain that we want to maintain the components of the open space our natural resources.
“I hear what you are saying,” Haddock-Weiler said. “We don’t have the only answer. We have funding that can actually be in addition to other funding. We can also sometimes help bring the right people to the table … whether it is with the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Transportation or the Department of Community Affairs, we at least have the capacity to talk to some of these entities and help start answering those kinds of questions.
When Ferramosca noted that the township also wants better water protection and stormwater management, Plevin replied that the full name of the Highlands Council is “Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council”.
Haddock-Weiler said the Highlands Council recently concluded a study in conjunction with Rutgers to examine areas in the northern and southern branches of the Raritan watershed to determine where there are opportunities for stormwater management, especially infrastructure. green.
Ferramosca noted that the increased housing needs ordered by the court which will mean that more than 1,000 new units will be built in the township is something the township has to contend with.
“It’s not a ‘nice to do’,” Ferramosca said. “It’s something we have to do. ‘ We really need to address these issues and support efforts to educate those who may be less interested in understanding what the impacts of density are on a built community struggling to maintain its balance in the natural resources we have.
Plevin noted that the township’s affordable housing requirements for the third cycle are now met, but another cycle will take place in 2025.
“The Highlands Council can conduct a mid-term review to help the township deal with the new numbers,” Plevin said.
Deputy Mayor Thomas “Ace” Gallagher thanked council for coming.
“2025 is fast approaching,” said Gallagher. “It’s a little heartwarming to know that we can call because people joke that they have our ear, but we feel like we don’t have anyone’s ear. And we need help, we need everyone on the bridge because this is going to radically change everything. In the next round, we don’t know what we’re going to do, where we’re going to pay. So it’s great to hear from the first people who could help us.
Township committee member Michael Mihalko noted that places like Bee Meadow Park are surrounded by beautiful ponds and wetlands.
“It would be an area that we really want to help protect,” he said.
“It would be seen as an environmental resource that the Highlands Council would seek to protect,” replied Haddock-Weiler. “If you decide to comply with the Highlands Act and the regional master plan and have a major development plan ahead of you, we will look at it in terms of its compliance with the Highlands Act and the policy goals and objectives of the plan. regional director. We can provide suggestions on how to mitigate potential impacts on natural resources. We can make suggestions for increased stormwater management or green infrastructure. If there is a project moving forward that meets the goals, policies and objectives of the regional master plan but can be improved so that resources are better protected, our technical expertise can step in and help with that.
Township prosecutor Fred Semrau agreed that the Highlands Council is a quality entity that works well with municipalities without imposing themselves on them.
The township’s next step is to decide whether it wants to do an initial assessment to determine what working with the Highlands Council may involve. The Highlands Council would provide a grant to undertake this report, according to Haddock-Weiler.