Our neighbors in New Jersey have implemented a new way to hem in urban sprawl using new municipal ordinances. Noncontiguous clustering is an innovative tool “that preserves farmland and open space with private funds by an alternative to conventional subdivisions; instead of building homes on large lots, a developer may use the developmental potential of a parcel or parcels where preservation is desired on a different, nonadjacent property.”
A recent report by the organization New Jersey Future, provides insight into the study of the nine municipalities currently utilizing the planning tool. The study, “Preserving Land Through Compact Growth: Case Studies of Noncontiguous Clustering in New Jersey,” provides a detailed description of the situation in each of the nine townships with visuals to highlight the plans in place. Read the full report here.
The nine townships featured in the report that have adopted noncontiguous clustering ordinances are Delaware, Hillsborough, Hopewell (Mercer County), Middle, Monroe, North Hanover, Ocean, Plainsboro, and Robbinsville. One of the authors did note, however, that only four projects have been completed over the 16 years that such ordinances have been available.
Still, it is encouraging to see that townships in neighboring areas have adopted ordinances to combat the spread of sprawl. Municipalities within the Lehigh Valley could learn a lot from these townships by studying what worked for them in the process and what obstacles hindered progress. Farmland and open space can be preserved. Smart planning and development can be achieved. It takes smart policies with the power of enforcement, as well as cooperation among local government and developers, in order to prevent more sprawl.