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TRENTON, NJ-It was born amid confusion as to what exactly it was, as well as acrimony in the form of Gov. James McGreevey’s state-of-the-state diatribe in January against New Jersey’s development community (see earlier stories). It’s already been overhauled once (in March), and now, in the face of criticism, the BIG Map has been pulled from the NJ DEP’s website as the state agency seeks to fix what Patrick O’Keefe, president of the NJ Builder’s Association, and others have publicly called “a blunder” and “a PR nightmare.”

BIG stands for Blueprint for Intelligent Growth, and when it was introduced earlier this year, the distinct impression conveyed by state officials was that it would govern development patterns. It was coded with “green” areas for go, “yellow” for caution and “red” for stop. The color red constituted about two-thirds of the entire state.

It was only later, in the face of harsh criticism from the development community and from many local officials in search of ratables, that the BIG Map was essentially defined as an environmental map that would be overlaid with the state’s existing growth management map, which dates to the administration of former Gov. Christie Whitman.

“The map generated considerable interest, which prompted DEP to extend its informal public comment period until April 25,” according to an agency spokesperson. Indeed, DEP announced immediately after that the document was being yanked from the agency’s website-for now.

“In response to the concerns and comments received, appropriate changes will be made,” according to the DEP spokesperson. “After consultation with officials in all 21 counties and any interested municipalities, a process that is expected to continue through the summer, the map will undergo additional revisions.”

Indeed, Gov. McGreevey himself leaked the news last week, a day or so prior to the official announcement. That came during an address before the New Jersey Alliance Program, an urban/retail development event in Newark sponsored by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

“This was the friendliest reception to the BIG Map [McGreevey] has seen, because this group is all about urban redevelopment, brownfields redevelopment and the redevelopment of suburban downtowns,” according to Ted Zangari of the Sills Cummis Law Firm in Newark, planning committee chairman for the event. “Now, in the middle of all this, the governor is saying that the map is kind of on hold and he’s talking about looking at some kind of regional plan.”

Now that it’s back to the drawing board for the document, DEP officials say they’re looking for a revised version that is more reflective of local data and has fewer conflicts with existing state and local plans. Water resources are also expected to play a larger role in the new document, which is expected to be unveiled in the fall.

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