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EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ-”Cities want to move sites back into redevelopment, but developers are often forced to let redevelopment parcels languish at depressed values rather than embark on a complex, expensive and time-consuming clean-up project.” That was part of the message delivered by NJ DEP commissioner Bradley Campbell at a recent meeting here of the New Jersey chapter of NAIOP.

“We need to work with municipalities to free up those sites,” Campbell continued. “In some cases, eminent domain may be appropriate, while other cases will require enforcement in order to keep progress moving forward.”

The job is made more difficult, in Campbell’s view, because developers in the state now face what he termed “a second generation of brownfields,” sites that aren’t as centrally located and as straight-forward in terms of what has to be done to them. At the same time, according to Campbell, these more difficult sites have to be approached “in an environment where there isn’t ready capital available. There is greater risk aversion, and sites are tougher in terms of location and complexity of the clean-up challenges.”

To emphasize his point, Campbell also introduced Evan Van Hook, newly appointed assistant commissioner who will focus specifically on site remediation. Campbell also cited four areas of priority for brownfields: the need for greater regulatory clarity; reconciliation of regulatory decision timetables with business decision timetables; the need to expand reuse to include reimbursement provisions; and, what he termed “the most difficult problem,” the warehousing of sites.

Campbell also touched on the link between brownfields redevelopment and the state’s effort to funnel growth and development into the cities. “If we are going to encourage families to live in an already developed area, we have to make sure those areas are appealing,” he told the NJ-NAIOP group. “I am eager to work with the development community to identify vacant land in the cities that could be used for recreation and open space.”

Campbell also talked about water regulation as part of his DEP responsibilities. “An area in need of substantial change is water stewardship,” he asserted. “There has been considerable neglect in water management in the past. Development can only occur if there is some predictability in regulation of the water system,” he concluded.

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