Navigating Green Acres Restrictions: Mitigating the Impact on Utility and Development Projects

August 26, 2019

It takes a comprehensive understanding of New Jersey’s environmental regulations and property restrictions to avoid potential pitfalls and successfully complete utility and development projects involving New Jersey’s open spaces.

Our more than 30 years’ experience advising major interstate pipeline companies and other clients on planning utility and development projects have revealed that one of the principal challenges they face is identifying Green Acres-restricted land.

The difficulty is more pronounced with unfunded parcels not listed on a local unit’s Recreation and Open Space Inventory (ROSI), the NJDEP’s master list of Green Acres-encumbered properties in each municipality. For example, we identified a conservation restriction that was labeled as a “Drainage and Conservation Easement” on a field map only. The Township deemed it Green Acres restricted, and a diversion was required.

Navigating Green Acres Restrictions: Mitigating the Impact on Utility and Development Projects

Rutter & Roy’s in-depth research includes

  • ROSI
  • Title search
  • Information from the municipality, county, or non-profit organization
  • Green Acres files
  • Other state capitol records

It is important to identify property restrictions as early as possible to identify potentially significant project delays. The jurisdictional review process alone can take six months to a year and involves determining whether other federal funding programs such as Land & Water Conservation apply. We also check for Deeds of Easement conveying development rights and creating preserved farms.

The Green Acres diversion process has multiple steps, including two local hearings as well as approvals from the Commissioner of the NJDEP and the New Jersey State House Commission. When there is a Green Acres conservation easement, we know how to streamline the diversion process and the restriction release process so that the project can be constructed on time.

While the intentionally strict rules discourage diversions, we believe it’s always preferable to go through the diversion process rather than to condemn. Throughout our decades of experience with environmental and development regulations, we repeatedly have seen uniquely challenging situations and issues arise. Successful outcomes depend on legal professionals who understand New Jersey’s property restrictions and know what’s required to navigate the various statutory and regulatory processes.