Controversial N.J. bill would extend permits on construction projects from as far back as the 1990s

Controversial N.J. bill would extend permits on construction projects from as far back as the 1990s

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Construction permits statewide would be extended another two years, under the third version of a bill known as the Permit Extension Act.

TRENTON — Construction projects with permits originally issued in the 1990s would still be in play and buildable, under a bill advancing in the state Legislature.

The fourth version of the Permit Extension Act was released by the Assembly Appropriations committee, and would again extend permits two years, until 2016. The first three versions were passed in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

Its sponsors and supporters say the bill could rejuvenate the state economy. Opponents including environmental groups say it’s a way for developers to circumvent the most-current regulations.

“Extending permits for two years helps our economy by creating jobs,” said Asseblyman David Rible (R-Monmouth and Ocean). “The process of obtaining permits is time-consuming and costly which deters economic growth.”

“Why are we going to bother to have permits if they’re going to be continually extended?” said David Pringle, of the New Jersey Environmental Federation.

“It’s becoming permanent extension,” said Jeff Tittel, the director of the Sierra Club’s New Jersey chapter.

The bill was approved by the committee this morning, 8-0, with one abstention. Three of the legislators said the legislation deserves a longer look in front of the full committee.

Industry groups said New Jersey’s economy needs a boost. The extension of permits from before that downturn would help to rejuvenate the market, they said.

“New Jersey hasn’t come out of the recession by any means,” said George Vallone, of the New Jersey Builders Association.

But environmentalists say the bill's provisions, including a so-called “Dracula clause” of reviving projects from decades ago, would potentially lead to development in environmentally sensitive and flood-prone areas.

“It bypasses 20 years of modern scientific safeguards,” said Pringle.

 

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