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TRENTON, NJ-Both chambers of the state legislature yesterday approved a measure that would extend old and new building permits through Dec.of 2010. The Permit Extension Act of 2008 passed the Assembly by a vote of 70-9, and the Senate by 33-2. The measure now awaits the signature of Gov. Jon Corzine. A spokesman declined to comment.

The bill hit committees in both chambers a week ago, and were brought to the full Assembly and Senate this week with some changes, or compromises. The major change was that while the original bill would have extended old and new permits dating from the end of 2006 and set to expire this year if not utilized, through Dec. 2012, the final version puts the expiration date at Dec. 21, 2010.

Proponents of the bill cited economic conditions and the possible impact on getting projects done within the time limit imposed by existing and new permits as the reasoning behind the legislation. “It takes several years and an average of 157 permits to get a major project off the ground,” Ted Zangari, a member of the Newark-based Sills Cummis Law firm and founder of the advocacy group behind the legislation, told GlobeSt.com a week ago. “I would argue that a number of projects would never survive another round of approvals.

“I’m gratified that the bill was approved by such overwhelming majorities,” Zangari tells Globest.com. “I think legislators heard our message that extending permits is about economic development, that it makes no sense to require developers whose projects have been exhaustively reviewed and approved by multiple agencies to begin the process anew, especially when many of those agencies have experienced lay-offs and have hundreds of untouched development applications sitting on desks.

“I think legislators also heard the message that by freezing permits in danger of expiring, the approved projects can actually contribute to and perhaps even accelerate the eventual economic recovery here in New Jersey,” Zangari says.

Opponents, including officials of the New Jersey DEP, argued that among other things the proposed six-year extension would lock in environmental and other regulations that could change–i.e., become more stringent–over the life of a permit. “We removed about 75% of the bad,” says Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, in a statement. “So it is a bad bill, but we did the best we could.”

The Permit Extension Act is the first of a dozen bills of a legislative package put together by the business advocacy group, the Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition, aimed at making New Jersey more “business-friendly.” Nearly two years in the making, that package was rolled out publicly in early June.

“It’s now time to turn our attention to the incentives bills in our package,” Zangari says. “We want to be ready to hit the ground running in early September.”

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