TRENTON-Twenty years from now, New Jersey’s urban centers will be fully reborn and in bloom, growth in the suburbs will be under control and the more pristine areas will have been left alone. That’s the scenario spelled out by the State Planning Commission’s new growth management plan, just released after months of public discussion, including direct meetings between Gov. Christie Whitman and key organizations.

As has been the case during those meetings, the reviews are decidedly mixed on the New Jersey State Development and Redevelopment Plan, which is actually a revision of an earlier plan. At the heart of it is a goal of preserving a million acres of open space, including farmland and forested areas.

“This effort isn’t just about economic development, and it isn’t just about preserving open spaces,” Joseph Maraziti, chairman of the commission told the audience at the unveiling of the plan Wednesday night. “This is ultimately a matter of maintaining and revitalizing our cities and towns and creating new, pedestrian-friendly communities.”

Now the criticisms: local officials don’t like it very much because they say it takes away too much of their decision-making while casting a shadow of big government. Developers also aren’t crazy about it, asserting that it is too limiting, especially given the small size and population density of New Jersey. They also suggest it will slow economic growth, and that it doesn’t really clarify where developers can or can’t build.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, charge that as drawn up, it doesn’t go far enough in terms of preserving the state’s dwindling open spaces.

In support of the plan, a new Rutgers University study predicts that if implemented it will save $2.3 billion in infrastructure construction costs over the next two decades. The study also suggests that it could save as much as 25% more acreage than the one million goal if implemented properly.

The plan will now be subject to more than two-dozen public hearings, and final approval by the planning commission is expected by next February.

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