22 July 2008

Highlands Results

The vote by the Highlands Council to approve a Master Plan last week has received a little less post-vote analysis than I expected. But there is still some interesting coverage to review.

The Bergen Record pointed out that neither side liked the outcome much, and tried to explain the problems that each group saw in the plan. One council member who voted against the plan, Sussex Freeholder Glen Vetrano, was even reported to have worn a NJ Builders Association pin to the meeting. The ever-present Jeff Tittel opposed it from the other side:
"The governor better tell people to buy bottled water, because this plan will not protect the drinking water for 5 million people," Tittel said.
Council member Glen Vetrano, a Sussex County freeholder, came to the meeting wearing a Builders Association lapel pin and voted against the plan partly because towns would not be able to meet their affordable-housing quotas as mandated by the state.

One newspaper account pointed to a "new" web resource where you could see whether or not your house was in the Highlands. Althrough the Highlands Mapping Center has been up for a while, it does take on a new level of importance now that the Highlands Council has passed a plan.

The NJEF has released an analysis of how each Council member voted on each amendment. Their executive director, David Pringle, described the vote as allowing the residents of the Highlands to drink their own septic.

Another analysis in the Record said that "Most of the more than 820,000 people living in the Highlands region need not worry about the 410-page regional master plan" but that apparently means that the Record thinks that the residents would only care about property development limitations and not drinking water issues.

And the Home News/Gannett reports that folks are already gearing up for battle over what sound like minutia:

Environmentalists said after the meeting this is what they will be urging the governor to do.

"There are three areas where the plan violates the act and two others where it's weaker than the current DEP regulations,'" said Jeff Tittel, head of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club. "We're going to ask the governor to veto the minutes. This is his council, his plan, we are going to ask him to fix it.'"

But don't let it fool you, apparent minutia, like formal approval of the minutes, is actually the crux of the process. That is the mechanism for conveying the 9-5 vote and a veto of the minutes would force the Council to go back and work on this even more.

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