August 29, 2012
Re: A-2586 & S-1534, Exempts Private Institutions of Higher Education from MLUL Requirements
The League opposes A-2586 and S-1534, which exempts private colleges and universities from local zoning requirements. This legislation undermines and usurps local decision making and severely diminishes the role of our taxpayers. The Senate version of this bill passed the Senate in June, and it and its Assembly companion, A-2586, are referenced to the Assembly Higher Education Committee.
A court case in the early 1970s established that a public college or university is exempt from local zoning. The Court basis for this decision was its conclusion that these institutions are instrumentalities of the State. Thus, what A-2586 and S-1534 will do is provide to certain private institutions the same status as instrumentalities of the State, such as Rutgers, the Parkway and the Turnpike. This is a very concerning precedent and it is simply bad public policy.
Public scrutiny, involvement and complete transparency are essential to the planning process, and should not be diminished or hindered in any way. The involvement of locally elected officials, appointed officials and residents can only improve, not diminish, projects.
Shifting the authority to private colleges and universities in the determination of land uses for education purposes further burdens taxpayers to meet the cost impacts incurred as a result of the additional, unbridled development
While the bill appears to impact only 14 institutions, we are aware that some of these schools own land in other surrounding communities, and such property would also be exempt from local zoning.
Further, A-2586 & S-1534 would establish another troublesome precedent. While the bill itself applies only to private colleges and universities, a very dangerous precedent could be established, allowing other non-profit institutions who similarly serve a “public mission” to argue that they should also be exempt from local zoning control. The logical extension of this could impact every community in this State.
We recommend contacting your Assembly representatives and ask them to oppose A-2586 and S-1534. Questions on this legislation can be directed to Mike Cerra at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-695-3481 x120.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.