PRINCETON, NJ-Some groups insist that the first step in solvinga problem is admitting that a problem exists. In a similar fashion,business leaders in New Jersey say that to plan things out, ithelps to have an actual plan. That was the mantra at an event hereon the university campus called Building ONE New Jersey, which wasco-chaired by representatives from PlanSmart NJ and the New JerseyRegional Coalition.

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“We have a failure of planning,” said Lieutenant Governor KimGuadagno, referring to the lack of direction that the state givesto businesses and municipalities when it comes to economicdevelopment. Right now there are “too many people telling too manypeople to do too many disparate things.”

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Many speakers pointed fingers at sprawl as a main culprit thatcreated blighted cities across the state. The state isn’t doingmuch about that, contended Guadagno, who had harsh words for theOffice of Smart Growth. “They’re not doing their job by anymeasure,” she said, promising that the entity’s responsibilitieswould soon fall under her jurisdiction.

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Even developers that are more than eager to build anythinganywhere should be weary of sprawl, said Joseph McNamara, directorof New Jersey Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust(LECET), which represents workers in the construction industry.“Our industry does recognize that sprawl in the long term reallyhurts our industry because it hurts the economy,” he said.

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McNamara also stressed the need to improve the state’sinfrastructure in order to strengthen the economy and said thatthere needs to be more of a focus on greening building in innercities to help attract businesses. “Economic development and theenvironment aren’t mutually exclusive,” he said.

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Part of the planning process needs to involve more affordablehousing, contended David Rusk, an urban policy consultant. But notwithout conditions. “It must create a win-win situation,” he said.“It must be fair for for-profit homebuilders.”

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He suggested giving developers free land, in some cases, tobuild units with more density. And for commercial builders, thesuspension of development fees in low-income areas can help attractmore jobs.

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Ron Sims, deputy secretary of the US Department of Housing andUrban Development, said part of the key to successful urbancommunities is building areas with suitable green space and accessto public transportation. Either way, he insisted, his agency isgoing to be more involved in the country’s development projects.“There’s going to be a lot of rebuilding of this country over thenext 30 to 40 years,” he promised.

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