At the Parsippany Council Meeting on Tuesday, December 4, Lisa Plevin (Highlands Council Executive Administrator) and two members of her staff presented information on the process and benefits of conformance with the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act. Following their presentation a resolution was put forth to allow Parsippany to petition the Highlands to be in conformance with the regional master plan. It was approved, but the vote was 3 to 2. Those in opposition indicated some lack of familiarity with the act and its associated regional planning benefits of conformance. The vote enabled a resolution to be placed on the agenda for the December 18 meeting which will formally petition the Highlands Council for participation in Highlands conformance.
As Parsippany is now moving to create a new master plan this is a perfect time to do what is best for all. The Highlands Council provides experts in the science of land use and natural resource protection and can help Parsippany manage its land and water resources in many ways as well as provide grants for these programs, minimizing the associated costs to the township. These new programs will also improve quality of life for residents by controlling flooding, improving the quality of lakes, ensuring the quantity of water needed and preserving open space, among other benefits.
The Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act was signed on August 10, 2004 and Parsippany has been involved in some fashion since 2009. This information is readily available and should be common knowledge to any elected official. Parsippany had been on the path to conformance when it was derailed by a false claim that participation would cause a year or more delay in remediating a sewage plant problem. Unfortunately, this also made it impossible for Parsippany to use Highlands conformance protections in its fight against the Waterview project. In hindsight, Parsippany has suffered and continues to suffer unnecessary problems and resident distress due to not being in conformance.
At the December 4th Council Meeting one member (who voted NO on the resolution) implied that if “conformance” cannot help us reduce our housing number, its other benefits, good land use practices and planning grants obtained from experts, are not worth having. While using good land and water management practices may have a side benefit of preventing unwanted housing construction this is not the main reason why Parsippany should conform. The alternative would be to continue to allow private corporate developers to decide Parsippany’s fate as they have in the past, ignoring environmental and community concerns, in effect ignoring our own master plan in favor of developers immediate short term plans rather than long term comprehensive planning.
Defending our remaining environmentally sensitive areas and natural resources, especially our aquifer, is about all Parsippany can hope for and this should be a neutral and nonpartisan move forward in the creation of our new master plan. If community elected officials cannot agree on environmental issues of concern, then something is lost in our common humanity.
Parsippany has proven in the past to be an easy mark for corporate developer market schemes, that has left our town over-developed and now vulnerable under the illusion of home rule and developers lawsuits, which Parsippany tax payers have had to pay for. (Including the local open space fund scam of $3.5 million to RD for a buffer that could have been handled by proper zoning).
It can be argued that Regional Planning strengthens rather than weakens local government and the health of local communities. A new Parsippany master plan should be a full prioritization of human and environmental requirements in harmony with the Highlands Master Plan which should be a covenant between the Municipally and it’s residents, not silly putty in the hands of corporate developers. A vote against Highlands Conformance is a vote against Parsippany itself. Any who cannot see the benefits possible here are blind or being arbitrary and capricious.
We encourage all Parsippany residents who want to improve our ability to manage our resources using best scientific practices to come to the town council meeting on December 18th and ask the council to vote YES on conformance.