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In the future...

The protection of Hunterdon County’s land and natural resources is of prime importance to residents. Land preservation – including open space and farms - continues to be aggressively pursued by local, county and state government, nonprofit organizations and landowners. New development is limited by the collective desire of Hunterdon County communities to protect an extensive network of natural resources and maintain a rural or semi-rural landscape and economy. That which does occur is directed away from areas targeted for preservation to the greatest extent possible. The design of new development is dictated first and foremost by the natural environment of the site and its surroundings and all efforts are made not only to minimize environmental damage but to actually restore existing features where needed.

Hunterdon County’s rural character has also been protected through the appearance of undeveloped lands and through a diversity of site design techniques and architectural styles. Woodlands, mature trees and vegetation have been retained in and around new developments. Where there is new residential development, it is barely visible from nearby roads because of planted and natural buffers. Historic buildings have been restored, reoccupied, and protected throughout the County. New buildings incorporate elements of the historic, vernacular styles. There is an emphasis on landscaping and native vegetation throughout the County that protects rural areas but even conveys a rural ambience in more developed locations.

New development is designed to protect our limited water supplies and important natural resources. Residents living on large lots understand the importance of limiting lawn areas and impervious surfaces to conserve water and protect water quality. In areas targeted for farmland, natural resources and open space preservation, residential lots are configured to preserve plant and animal habitats and scenic views and to replenish ground water. Commercial development is similarly guided by environmental design.

New residential neighborhoods incorporate a variety of housing sizes, designs and affordability, including those similar to the County’s traditional villages and hamlets. A few higher density neighborhoods are constructed in or near existing developed areas and along major highway corridors within walking and bicycling distance to nearby commercial centers by transferring development from properties targeted for preservation.

Although small-scale commercial development has been directed to existing towns and villages, there are also a few, limited opportunities for new commercial centers along the highway corridors. These centers are separated from each other at prescribed distances to minimize traffic congestion and to create dense areas for one-stop shopping and a healthy consumer base. They are developed with an emphasis on environmentally sensitive site design, on building design, on landscaping, and on social and community facilities. The result is a uniquely attractive shopping and business experience similar to the traditional downtown. Property values in these centers continue to rise as a result of their success. Older commercial areas have been redeveloped over the years and now reflect a similar level of design and quality.

While our highway corridors continue to develop, communities work together to plan new development in ways that avoid unsightly landscapes and traffic problems. Higher intensity uses are clustered and placed at strategic locations where transportation systems can accommodate them. Underused or vacant buildings are viewed as opportunities for redevelopment. But not all highways are treated equally. Some have the infrastructure to accommodate more intensive uses, while others continue to remain in low density/low intensity uses such as parks, offices, nursing homes, and preserved open space within housing developments. These uses are barely visible from the highway because of the landscaped and natural buffers. As a result, the traveling public is often given the impression that the sites are wooded, undeveloped areas. The highways themselves have been landscaped to blend with the rural and country suburban characteristics of the County.

Traditional downtown areas (i.e. “Main Streets”) provide services and shops for local residents and tourists. Many municipalities have adopted heritage tourism themes and have made investments in restoring historic structures, which has paid off handsomely. New development, when it occurs, is well designed and incorporates architectural features of adjoining and/or nearby buildings. Improving streetscapes, encouraging convenience shopping as well as specialty stores, and unique marketing programs are all planning initiatives that help revitalize the downtowns. These small towns welcome and in fact encourage people to walk and bike from place to place.

Although the automobile continues to be the principal mode of personal transportation, people have become a little less dependent on it. This has happened as a result of several successful strategies including enhanced opportunities for pedestrian and bicycle mobility, transit options and changes in land use patterns.

The majority of County residents are committed to land stewardship and recognize the conflicts that sometimes arise between their personal desire for conveniences and amenities and the health and character of the overall community and environment. Residents buy local, agricultural products, use water and other resources wisely and are actively involved in the planning and design of their communities.

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Provided by planning@co.hunterdon.nj.us on April 6, 2005.