Public colleges in New Jersey have been exempt from local zoning rules for decades. A bill making its way through the Legislature would give private colleges and universities in the Garden State the same land-use privileges.
The measure would streamline the building process for private colleges by avoiding local approval delays that can last for years, says John Wilson, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey.
“The procedural aspect — and the experts and the legal fees, etc. –cut into the cost of projects and also those delays accelerate the construction costs,” Wilson said.
Officials in many of the towns where the private colleges are located say eliminating the local review process will result in projects that ignore their needs.
The state Senate approved the legislation in June. It’s still awaiting action in the Assembly. Assemblywoman Celeste Riley, who heads the education committee, says amendments may be needed to deal with the concerns of town officials.