The impact of this bill will be profound and cause long-term damage.
- The official overview for this bill falsely claims to create “equalization” between private and public universities. Public universities have legislative and public oversight. The details of their budgets, including capital projects, are public and voted on by a governmental body, whether it be the NJ Legislature or county freeholders. Private universities have no such oversight. The only oversight they have in siting a new capital project is through the local planning board. Without zoning and site plan review, every private university will have carte blanche to do as they wish, regardless of the impact on neighboring property owners or on the town as a whole.
- Home rule is being hollowed out as local municipalities will no longer have any instruments to enforce municipal land use laws. Nor will local zoning and planning boards be able to provide any binding input. Instead, these thorough processes are replaced by a mechanism in which universities are supposed to enter in a dialogue with the local communities. Every community with a college knows examples that serve as warning signs what could happen without restraint or binding zoning laws.
- Tax payers will have no recourse with respect to any constructions that will be put up or tore down. This can lead to undesirable buildings very close to or in residential areas. This as well as the uncertainty as to what a university will decide to do in proximity to residential homes, will put home owners property values at risk.
- Universities are not confined to their current properties, they can obtain any area/home in any locality and if this bill is enacted, there will be no recourse either for property owners who previously did not have to consider their proximity to a private college or university.
- Universities would be allowed to purchase land, develop it contrary to zoning ordinances. When later on the developed property is sold, the non-confirming use would go with the land. This backdoor zoning conversion ability would only encourage universities to act as real estate developers, possibly as a source of income.
- Colleges and universities are not enlightened developers. There are many examples, from all across the country, of huge planning mistakes made by universities, which have done substantial and irreversible harm to the host communities.
- This bill is a slippery slope toward other institutions lobbying to forego the development approval process, because its wording is so broad. For instance, churches, hospitals, and other schools can successfully argue to be a benefit to society, and for that reason would need to be one the same “level playing field”. It’s not inconceivable they could sue for this.