Community Foundation of New Jersey

NJ Spotlight Examines Post-Sandy Planning

July 24, 2013

NJ Spotlight recently tackled the tougher issues of rebuilding New Jersey in their aptly-titled, “Post-Sandy Recovery: Balancing Regional Planning and Home Rule.”  We encourage you to read it by clicking here.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece that captures local tensions about rebuilding:

Over the past 50 years, Lynch says he’s heard the growing calls by environmentalists for people and development to move away from the most vulnerable areas of the coast, places like Seaside Heights, Mantoloking and Ortley Beach. Those calls have intensified in the aftermath of Sandy. But Lynch sees them as premature. “I think it’s too early to retreat. It’s too early to bail out,” he says. “I’m not sure whether anybody could even figure out an economic solution to retreating at this point. There’s a lot of property value out there, and you can’t just tell people they can’t use their property. You can’t deny building permits unless you compensate. I don’t think pragmatically that there’s a way to do a strategic retreat.”

But it isn’t simply a question of retreat or restore. What decisions are made and where they are made are among the thorniest issues facing planners looking to reinvent the shore. New Jersey has a strong tradition of “home rule,” in which communities decide key issues for themselves. It may help explain why the concept of shared services never really caught on.

But thinking locally can be particularly problematic post-Sandy, since one town’s plan of action may not jibe with a neighbor’s. One of the most notable examples of this is Hoboken’s plan to build a seawall to redirect storm surge. Unfortunately, the redirected water may flood nearby towns.

What’s more, weather patterns are regional rather than local, as several planners point out. But what it will take to move local New Jersey officials to take a broader — or more holistic — view of the Sandy scarred beaches and boardwalks is still an open question.