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Plan Endorsement is the official recognition by the New Jersey State Planning Commission that a local, county, regional, or state agency plan is consistent with the State Development and Redevelopment Plan (State Plan). In order to be endorsed, plans must be consistent the goals, policies and strategies of the State Plan, the State Plan Policy Map and applicable State statutes and regulations. Municipalities, counties, groups of municipalities and counties, and regional and state agencies with the authority to implement plans are eligible to apply for Plan Endorsement.
State agencies will provide benefits in the form of technical assistance, state capital investments, priority for state grants and loans, and regulatory changes to facilitate the implementation of the endorsed plan.
Municipalities have good reason to obtain Plan Endorsement. If a municipal master plan is not endorsed by the State Planning Commission, the affordable housing regulations established by the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) allow COAH to revoke the municipality's substantive certification (certification by COAH that the municipal housing plan meets the requirements of the State's affordable housing regulations). Substantive certification provides very important legal protections to municipal ordinances. These ordinances can be left vulnerable without taking the added step of receiving Plan Endorsement by the State Planning Commission.
After municipalities obtain Initial Plan Endorsement they become eligible for a limited set of benefits. Once a municipality has an endorsed plan, they can pursue Advanced Plan Endorsement in order to receive a more comprehensive set of benefits.
Initial Plan Endorsement requires the submission of the municipal master plan and sub-elements, as well as population and employment projections, zoning and land use maps, a natural resource inventory, a farmland preservation plan and other relevant planning documents itemized in the 2004 Plan Endorsement Guidelines. Additionally, the municipality must submit a Planning and Implementation Agreement (PIA). The PIA identifies the means and the schedule for achieving the goals of the endorsed plan.
Prior to initiating Plan Endorsement, municipalities can request a pre-petition meeting with the Office of Smart Growth and representatives of state agencies such as the Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Transportation, Department of Agriculture and the Council on Affordable Housing. At that time state representatives will explain the process of Plan Endorsement, including the requisite planning documents that must be submitted for review.
The Hunterdon County Planning Board staff is available to meet with individual municipalities (or groups of municipalities) in order to identify the resources that are available through the County. The County may be able to lend assistance with mapping, data needs and other technical support. Additionally, Planning Board staff can attend pre-petition conferences with the municipality and the Office of Smart Growth in order to review existing documentation and identify outstanding items that are needed to fulfill Plan Endorsement requirements.
To find out more about County Planning Board assistance, please call 908-788-1490 or email.