WLB Council August Agenda – Land Use for Universities
West Long Branch: One agenda subject for August 1 is NJ Senate Bill S 1534, which passed in committee in July and its duplicate Assembly A-2586 version in legislative process now.
The two proposals address private institutions of higher education organized as nonprofit corporations licensed by the State to confer degrees and to be eligible to receive funds. The bills propose these institutions be exempted from the land use laws just as public education colleges and universities are exempt, not overseen by the municipalities.
The NJ League of Municipalities opposes the bills. It said the bills are limited to 14 non–profit institutions in 16 municipalities. The League says despite this narrow scope, these private institutions should continue to be subject to local zoning jurisdiction. It finds no reason for a special status.
The League is concerned the legislation would establish precedent for municipalities across the State if non-profits which serve some public purpose also seek equal standing. It encourages municipalities to contact their state representatives.
The bill sponsors are Senators Robert Singer and Paul Sarlo (S-5134) and Assembly members Celeste Riley and Thomas Giblin. They estimate a total student population at these 14 institutions and 77 percent are in-state residents. They confer over 15,000 degrees annually.
Sponsors say the state’s independent institutions are disadvantaged with respect to growth and accommodation when subjected to local zoning controls. Despite their recognized vital public missions, they are often forced into costly and lengthy approval and appeals processes that impact important educational programs and facilities.
Sponsors recommend non-profit colleges and universities meet the same land use standards to have equal opportunities to grow and provide for their students. They say this bill can lead to non-profit education institutions and local leaders having more cordial, cooperative discussions.
Under the 1972 law public colleges and universities are exempt from local zoning jurisdiction in recognition of the public mission of educating the citizens of the State. The law recognizes this mission should not be unduly limited or restricted by their municipalities. The exemptions must be exercised a reasonable fashion, not arbitrarily. Local authorities will have input to minimize conflicts with local governmental interests. It is expected New Jersey's private non-profit institutions of higher education will follow the same public segment rules.