A measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats Connie Wagner, Vincent Prieto, Craig Coughlin and Valerie Vainieri Huttle received final legislative approval by the full Senate on Thursday, bringing towns and homeowners besieged by record flooding one step closer to a long-term solution.
The measure, which was approved 79-0 by the Assembly last week and 37-0 by the Senate today, now heads to the Governor’s desk.
“With record weather events increasing, what might have been a viable property years ago, isn’t necessarily the case now due to development, infrastructure and changing weather patterns,” said Wagner (D-Bergen). “It’s time to look at the bigger picture and figure out how we can address this problem moving forward.”
The bill (A-4267) mirrors a similar “Green Acres” measure instituted by various local governments wherein municipalities would be allowed to establish municipal open space trust funds specifically for the purchase of flood-prone properties. In order to establish such a fund, local governing bodies would have to seek voter approval for an annual levy at a rate deemed appropriate.
“This measure would put residents in the driver’s seat to decide how they want to handle flooding issues in their town,” said Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson). “For certain properties that consistently flood, allowing the municipality to buy up that property might be the best option. This will provide towns with the funding mechanism to do that, should voters give it the okay.”
Under current law, municipalities are authorized to establish “Municipal Open Space, Recreation, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Funds.” This bill would amend the name of these municipal open space trust funds to be “Municipal Open Space, Recreation, Floodplain Protection, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Funds.”
In doing so, the bill would expand this authorization to specifically include “Blue Acres projects,” which are any projects acquired for recreation or conservation purposes on land that has been damaged by, or may be prone to incurring damage caused by, storms or storm-related flooding, or that may buffer or protect other lands from such damage. The funds would be allowed to be used for the demolition of structures or the removal of debris from such properties and the restoration of those lands to a natural state or to a state useful for recreation and conservation purposes.
“Middlesex County, like many parts of the state, has been struggling to deal with flood-prone properties for years,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “It’s time we give towns and residents the tools to help address this problem based on their unique needs.”
“Over the last few years, a great deal of our state has incurred devastating damage from severe flooding events,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Residents need more than a band aid. They need a long-term solution to help avoid flood-related damage altogether.”