Pinelands Commission

In one of the most highly regulated states in the country, the Pinelands Commission and their Plan are the absolute darlings of the government regulatory world.

            If you want do something other than pitch a tent on land located in the Pinelands, the Commission most likely will control the process.  In one of the most highly regulated states in the country, the Pinelands Commission and their Plan are the absolute darlings of the government regulatory world.

            The primary purpose of the federal law that created the Pinelands National Reserve in 1978 was to preserve land.  If there is any doubt, the first clue can be found in the name.  The word reserve, of course, means that something is not going to be used.  In Pinelands world, that means forever.

            No doubt, all of this is a wonderful thing for protecting our drinking water and protecting natural resources.  Yet with most pieces of major legislation, either in Washington or Trenton, there are winners and losers and – with the Commission and their Plan – the owners and users of land are the losers. 

            Written by a handful of Ivy League lawyers, the Comprehensive Management Plan (the “Plan”) is ingenious.  It is ingenious because it effectively preserves private land without having to compensate the owners.  This is unlike Green Acres and Farmland Preservation, where the State or County writes a check to the landowner.

            Normally, when government takes land, they negotiate with the owner or condemn by court action (due process) and pay fair market value.  This is a fundamental right found in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

            The Plan strikes a delicate balance of being constitutional as written.  The Plan carefully regulates property and development.  It pushes the legal envelope, but never legally “takes” per se.  Even so, the complexity of the Plan, its byzantine nature, and the requirements imposed by the Pinelands Commission effectively condemn many properties.

            In the offices of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission in Pemberton, one will find a vast graveyard of dead files.  These files are born by a telephone call to the Commission or the filing of an application, but often quickly perish on the vine after the requirements to develop the family parcel are outlined.

            It’s called condemnation by confusion.  The average intelligent, educated landowner or buyer just cannot figure it out.  This site is intended to help such a person.