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New Legislation Restructures New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and NJSEA

Posted on Friday, February 6, 2015 by Thomas J. O'Connor

New Legislation Restructures New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and NJSEA

Governor Christie yesterday signed new legislation that will have sweeping effects on the future of the New Jersey Meadowlands.  The new law, known as the “Hackensack Meadowlands Agency Consolidation Act”, merges the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) into the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA).  The new agency will be known as the “Meadowlands Regional Commission”.

The legislation actually combines several initiatives that have been under consideration for a year or more.  The key elements of the multi-purpose legislation include:

Under the “Hackensack Meadowlands Agency Consolidation Act”:

  • The powers of the NJMC are to be transferred to the NJSEA, which will be renamed the “Meadowlands Regional Commission” (MRC).  The NJMC’s Board of Commissioners, which has operated since 1969, is to be dissolved effective immediately.
  • While earlier versions of the legislation had envisioned a 12 month transition period, no such transition is provided for in the bill as signed.  Nonetheless, pending applications and day-to-day operations administered by the commission staff should continue for the immediate future under the existing agency regulations.
  • The MRC will be responsible for all of the functions of both agencies, including the land use planning, solid waste management, and environmental protection responsibilities of the former NJMC, as well as the management of the 750 acre Meadowlands Sports Complex – stadium, race track, and America Dream project – of the renamed NJSEA.

Under the “New Jersey Meadowlands Tax Relief Act”:

  • A new source of funding for the Intermunicipal Tax Sharing Formula is to be generated by a three (3%) percent room tax on hotels located within the District.  The tax sharing formula is a financial mechanism, which has been in place since the Meadowlands District was established.  The formula is intended to equitably redistribute the tax revenues generated by new construction in municipalities that were zoned for greater development, to other municipalities that were zoned for landfills and environmental conservation as part of the comprehensive regional plan.  The new three (3%) percent hotel tax will relieve the tax burden of the seven (7) municipalities that had historically contributed as much as a combined $7,000,000 annually into the fund, while the other municipalities would continue to receive the tax sharing payments.

Under the “Hackensack Meadowlands Transportation Planning District Act”:

  • This portion of the legislation actually reinstates the State agency’s transportation district plan authority that was rescinded in early 2014.  This law permits the assessment of fees on future development to offset the impacts on the regional transportation network.  Rather than requiring off-site road improvements on a project-by-project basis, as traditionally done with new development, the district plan allows assessed fees to be pooled and applied to regional transportation improvements.  This law is retroactive to January, 1, 2014.

The 80 page bill also includes a controversial provision, which extends the authority of the MRC over Liberty State Park in Jersey City.

A major feature of this new law, which may eventually prove to have the most significant impact on developer’s looking at potential projects within the Meadowlands, is the ability of each of the 14 constituent municipalities to assume jurisdiction over the review and approval of site plan and bulk variance applications.  If a municipality elects to adopt the Meadowlands master plan and zoning regulations for lands within the Meadowlands District boundaries, these applications may now be reviewed by that municipality’s planning board, a power and a regulatory process that these municipalities have not exercised for the past 45 years.  If a municipality elects not to do so, the applications will continue to be reviewed by the MRC, as the NJMC previously did.  The MRC will retain jurisdiction in all cases over use variances and special exceptions (a/k/a conditional uses), and will also retain exclusive authority to designate redevelopment areas and adopt redevelopment plans.

In signing the bill, the Governor acknowledged that the legislation, which was hastily adopted at year end, is “imperfect in its current form”, and indicated that amendatory legislation is expected quickly to address shortfalls in the bill.  Ultimately, the devil is in the details, and it remains to be seen exactly how this bill, and the changes expected to follow, will affect the development community and all of the stakeholders in the Meadowlands District.

Please direct questions or comments to Tom O’Connor at toconnor@lawwmm.com.

 

Governor Christie yesterday signed new legislation that will have sweeping effects on the future of the New Jersey Meadowlands.  The new law, known as the “Hackensack Meadowlands Agency Consolidation Act”, merges the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) into the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA).  The new agency will be known as the “Meadowlands Regional Commission”. 

 

The legislation actually combines several initiatives that have been under consideration for a year or more.  The key elements of the multi-purpose legislation include:

 

Under the “Hackensack Meadowlands Agency Consolidation Act”:

 

·         The powers of the NJMC are to be transferred to the NJSEA, which will be renamed the “Meadowlands Regional Commission” (MRC).  The NJMC’s Board of Commissioners, which has operated since 1969, is to be dissolved effective immediately. 

·         While earlier versions of the legislation had envisioned a 12 month transition period, no such transition is provided for in the bill as signed.  Nonetheless, pending applications and day-to-day operations administered by the commission staff should continue for the immediate future under the existing agency regulations.

·         The MRC will be responsible for all of the functions of both agencies, including the land use planning, solid waste management, and environmental protection responsibilities of the former NJMC, as well as the management of the 750 acre Meadowlands Sports Complex – stadium, race track, and America Dream project – of the renamed NJSEA.

 

Under the “New Jersey Meadowlands Tax Relief Act”:

 

·         A new source of funding for the Intermunicipal Tax Sharing Formula is to be generated by a three (3%) percent room tax on hotels located within the District.  The tax sharing formula is a financial mechanism, which has been in place since the Meadowlands District was established.  The formula is intended to equitably redistribute the tax revenues generated by new construction in municipalities that were zoned for greater development, to other municipalities that were zoned for landfills and environmental conservation as part of the comprehensive regional plan.  The new three (3%) percent hotel tax will relieve the tax burden of the seven (7) municipalities that had historically contributed as much as a combined $7,000,000 annually into the fund, while the other municipalities would continue to receive the tax sharing payments.

 

Under the “Hackensack Meadowlands Transportation Planning District Act”:

 

·         This portion of the legislation actually reinstates the State agency’s transportation district plan authority that was rescinded in early 2014.  This law permits the assessment of fees on future development to offset the impacts on the regional transportation network.  Rather than requiring off-site road improvements on a project-by-project basis, as traditionally done with new development, the district plan allows assessed fees to be pooled and applied to regional transportation improvements.  This law is retroactive to January, 1, 2014.

 

The 80 page bill also includes a controversial provision, which extends the authority of the MRC over Liberty State Park in Jersey City.

 

A major feature of this new law, which may eventually prove to have the most significant impact on developer’s looking at potential projects within the Meadowlands, is the ability of each of the 14 constituent municipalities to assume jurisdiction over the review and approval of site plan and bulk variance applications.  If a municipality elects to adopt the Meadowlands master plan and zoning regulations for lands within the Meadowlands District boundaries, these applications may now be reviewed by that municipality’s planning board, a power and a regulatory process that these municipalities have not exercised for the past 45 years.  If a municipality elects not to do so, the applications will continue to be reviewed by the MRC, as the NJMC previously did.  The MRC will retain jurisdiction in all cases over use variances and special exceptions (a/k/a conditional uses), and will also retain exclusive authority to designate redevelopment areas and adopt redevelopment plans.

 

In signing the bill, the Governor acknowledged that the legislation, which was hastily adopted at year end, is “imperfect in its current form”, and indicated that amendatory legislation is expected quickly to address shortfalls in the bill.  Ultimately, the devil is in the details, and it remains to be seen exactly how this bill, and the changes expected to follow, will affect the development community and all of the stakeholders in the Meadowlands District.