New Jersey Climate Change Adaptation Using Community Plan Endorsements
The New Jersey Office of Planning Advocacy uses the State Development and Redevelopment Plan to guide local land-use policies and ordinances. Local plans can be formally endorsed by the agency, which can open communities up to additional benefits from state agencies. In 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed an Executive Order mandating the inclusion of climate change impacts (e.g., sea level rise and flooding) for the community plan endorsement process. Municipalities interested in undergoing the plan endorsement process are required to develop climate resilience plans aligned with the objectives of the 2021 statewide Climate Change Resilience Strategy.
New Jersey is one of the most populous states in the United States. In 1992, the New Jersey State Legislature released the New Jersey State Development and Redevelopment Plan. It was last updated in 2001 to include an additional goal to support sustainable land-use practices in New Jersey. The plan outlines the overarching land-use policy for New Jersey and acts as a guidance tool for local municipalities developing local land-use ordinances. Accompanying the plan is a State Plan Policy Map, depicting coastal planning areas and coastal suburban planning areas. The New Jersey Office of Planning Advocacy (OPA) reviews amendments regularly and prioritizes community endorsements of the plan. The OPA Director serves as the New Jersey State Planning Commission Executive Director and Secretary. The Commission comprises public members, local government officials, and representatives from state agencies.
OPA reviews local land-use policies and endorses successful plans through a “plan endorsement” process. Endorsed plans are those that achieve the goals and policies of the State Planning Act, and are eligible for various benefits, including funding, by state agencies. To satisfy the requirements to get a land use plan endorsed, communities must complete a rigorous stakeholder outreach process. The local leadership must create a committee that includes non-elected community members to oversee the land use ordinance update process. At least three visioning meetings are held with outside facilitators in order to produce a product that incorporates the opinions of community members. The local land use ordinances create growth centers, provide environmental protections, and highlight areas for restoration; the state governs the placement of major infrastructure.
In 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 89, which requires the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to develop the statewide Climate Change Resilience Strategy and guidance document, and requires the State Planning Commission to incorporate climate change impacts (e.g., sea level rise and flooding) as a mandatory requirement for the plan endorsement process. Municipalities interested in going through the plan endorsement process are required to develop a resilience plan aligned with the Climate Change Resilience Strategy. OPA provides guidance and technical assistance to municipalities throughout the resilience plan development process.
OPA has been working with communities to craft land-use ordinances that include strategies to reduce vulnerabilities to flooding and extreme tidal flux, some of which has been conducted in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Rutgers University. Specifically, they are trying to reduce the amount of impervious surface along the coasts, protect wetlands and wetland buffers, and restore coastal sand dunes. Land is targeted for protection or restoration through low-resolution shapefile analysis and with local guidance and suggestions. Although these measures are not explicitly labeled as climate change adaptation, these strategies will enhance the region’s resilience.
Outcomes and Conclusions
OPA will continue engaging with communities regarding resilience plan development and will work closely with NJDEP in advancing the objectives of the Climate Change Resilience Strategy. Efforts by OPA to help communities adapt to the future could be enhanced by improvements in rezoning mechanisms and regulations, integration of local, state, and federal concerns in land-use planning, and incorporation of climate change education for the public.
Feifel, K., Braddock, KN., and Gregg R.M. (2021). New Jersey Climate Change Adaptation Using Community Plan Endorsements [Case study on a project of the New Jersey Office of Planning Advocacy]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt’s State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: https://www.cakex.org/case-studies/new-jersey-climate-change-adaptation-using-community-plan-endorsements (Last updated October 2021)