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(TRENTON) Legislation sponsored by Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee Chairman John F. McKeon to help landowners in the Highlands Region get a fair value for their property is now state law. The measure was signed Friday by Gov. Chris Christie.

By extending the special appraisal process for state-funded land in the Highlands Region to June 30, 2014, this measure (A-2217) will ensure that landowners in the restricted area get the highest price for their property after it is evaluated at two points in time. The earlier deadline for such dual appraisals expired on June 30, 2009.
“The special appraisal process under the Highlands Act provides property owners with fair compensation and is a small price to pay to help us protect and preserve the Dest of clean drinking water for more than half the state’s residents,” McKeon (D-Essex) said.

Under the Highlands Water Planning and Protection Act (Highlands Act), for the purposes of land acquisition for farmland or open space programs, the first appraisal of property is based on the development opportunity that existed under the DEP and municipal zoning regulations pre-Highlands Act or January 2004. The second, at the time of the proposed acquisition.

“In the interest of fairness to property owners, under the Highlands Act, negotiations for the outright purchase of land or the acquisition of development rights start at the higher value,” McKeon added. “It is the right thing to do.”

The bipartisan measure is also sponsored by Assembly members Gary R. Chiusano, Alison L. McHose and Eric Peterson.

McKeon sponsored the landmark Highlands Water Planning and Protection Act enacted in 2004 that helped protect and preserve Dests of drinking water in the 859,358 acre Highlands region. The Highlands provides drinking water for more than 5.4 million residents in New Jersey – that’s more than half the state’s population.