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In re Certification of Master Plan and Land Use Ordinances of Township of Berkeley

Decided: December 22, 1986.

IN RE CERTIFICATION OF MASTER PLAN AND LAND USE ORDINANCES OF THE TOWNSHIP OF BERKELEY


On appeal from Action of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission.

Dreier, Shebell and Stern. The opinion of the court was delivered by Shebell, J.A.D.

Shebell

Appellants, National Pinelands Alliance, Michael Garabedian, its president, and Gary Patterson, chair of the Sierra Club West Jersey Group, appeal the New Jersey Pinelands Commission's certification of the Master Plan and Lane Use Ordinances of the Township of Berkeley as conforming with the Comprehensive Management Plan ("CMP") under the State Pinelands Protection Act, N.J.S.A. 13:18A-1 et seq., and the federal National Parks and Recreation Act, 16 U.S.C.A. ยง 471i, as well as the Governor's approval of that certification.

The Township of Berkeley, with approximately 38 percent of its land area within the Pinelands, applied in August 1982 for certification of its Master Plan and Land Use Ordinances as conforming with the CMP under the Pinelands Protection Act and National Parks and Recreation Act. The Pinelands Commission passed a resolution on November 5, 1982 granting certification conditioned upon certain modifications. In June 1983 the municipality adopted a revision, consistent with County Plan amendments, which redesignated approximately 300 acres of Forest Area as a Rural Development Area with a Municipal Reserve Option. After earlier rejections were followed by Township amendments, the Pinelands Commission following a public hearing on October 4, 1985 adopted a resolution

certifying the Master Plan and Land Use Ordinances of Berkeley Township.

We are presented with the issue of whether the Commission and the Governor improperly approved the area designation as a Municipal Reserve Area in light of the alleged violations of N.J.A.C. 7:50-5.52(a), which provides in pertinent part:

(a) A municipality may, in its master plan and land use ordinance, designate lands in Rural Development Areas that are adjacent to or contiguous with a Regional Growth Area or areas of existing growth and development located outside of the Pinelands as Municipal Reserve Areas, provided that the area designated:

2. Has a relatively uniform boundary which conforms to physical or environmental features;

5. Is not contiguous with a . . ., Forest Area. . . and preserves an adequate buffer of low intensity use between the Municipal Reserve Area and such districts. . . . [(emphasis added)].

Appellants direct our attention to the fact that the Municipal Reserve Area created was previously designated as a Forest Area, remains immediately adjacent to a Forest Area, is without a "low intensity use" buffer and that its boundaries conform to existing property lines and not to physical or environmental features of the natural topography.

Some background of the Federal and New Jersey Pinelands preservation efforts is helpful to an understanding of the issue. In 1978 Congress passed and the President signed the National Parks and Recreation Act ...


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