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Preservation’s Top Priority: Public Policy

June 21, 2010

Legislation and public policy are often murky issues, and understanding how important these issues are to the preservation landscape can be even more challenging. This year, PNJ helped to tackle these challenges at the annual NJ State Historic Preservation Conference, held on June 2, with a legislative panel of experts hand-picked to shed some light on timely public policy.  Over 40 conference attendees learned about current legislation and policy, how it ties in with

PNJ Executive Director Ron Emrich introduces the legislative panel at NJ's 2010 State Historic Preservation Conference June 2.

preservation concerns, and most significantly, how the public can (and should!) get involved in effecting legislative change.

Building off 2009’s successful “Keep It Green” campaign, Senator Bob Smith discussed  much-needed permanent funding of the Garden State Preservation Trust. GSPT includes the New Jersey Historic Trust grant funds, as well as open space and farmland preservation funds. Although NJ voters approved a bond measure for two additional years of “stop-gap” funding for GSPT this past November, it remains in need of a permanent, dedicated source of funding.

PNJ immediate past President John Hatch, AIA, LEED AP, discussed the Historic Property Reinvestment Act, or New Jersey state  historic tax credit, which would create a rehabilitation incentive for historic homeowners and smaller rehabilitation projects. The current bill (A1851/S659) was recently passed by the Assembly Environment Committee, and is now awaits hearing by the Assembly Appropriations Committee and the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.  

Pete Kasabach, Executive Director of New Jersey Future, discussed the NJ State Plan and opportunities for creating

Conference attendees packed the room to learn how everyone can affect public policy!

affordable housing using our state’s rich historic building stock. Current legislation surrounding smart growth initiatives and the state plan includes A1752 (The “Smart Housing Incentives Act“).

Architect Stephen Doyle of KSS Architects presented information on S980, a bill that would ensure greater protection for New Jersey’s historic schools. Trenton Central High School, listed as one of this year’s 10 Most Endangered, is representative of the threats facing historic schools everywhere, and just how needed protective legislation is.

The summary message of the session rings true no matter where it’s heard: legislative change requires public involvement. If you like the sound of some of the initiatives above, take action! Call you legislators and voice your support. It is up to us to make historic preservation public policy a top priority!

PNJ wishes to thank our speakers, as well as the Planning Committee for the 2010 State Historic Preservation Conference, for their support in hosting this panel.
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