Senator BOB SMITH
District 17 (Middlesex and Somerset)
Senator CHRISTOPHER "KIP" BATEMAN
District 16 (Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset)
Prohibits development over 35 feet in height in Hudson River Palisades viewshed.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act concerning development in the Hudson River Palisades viewshed, and supplementing Title 40 of the Revised Statutes.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. a. The Legislature finds and declares that the Hudson River Palisades, consisting of solid stone cliffs several hundred feet high, overlooking Manhattan, New York, and ranging northward along the Hudson River through Hudson County and Bergen County and beyond, provides miles of natural landscape that existed long before the founding of the United States of America; and that the Hudson River Palisades is part of the heritage of this country and that this natural phenomenon provided a scenic background for millions of immigrants who entered the United States through the Port of New York and New Jersey.
b. The Legislature further finds and declares that in 1965, Congress designated the Palisades Interstate Park a National Historic Landmark, a nationally significant historic place so designated because it possesses exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States; that today, fewer than 2,500 historic places bear this national distinction; and that Congress noted that the Palisades represents an extraordinary effort on the part of New Jersey and New York to preserve the scenic beauty of the cliffs of the lower western side of the Hudson River.
c. The Legislature further finds and declares that in 1983, the "Palisades of the Hudson" was designated a National Natural Landmark, a program that recognizes and encourages the conservation of sites that contain outstanding biological and geological resources and that are selected for their outstanding condition, illustrative value, rarity, diversity, and value to science and education; that there are only 600 designated National Natural Landmark sites; that the Palisades is recognized as the best example of a thick diabase sill formation known in the United States; that its columnar jointing, an olivine zone and thermal metamorphic effects are attributes found in rare combination; and that the glaciated crest provides impressive evidence of the Pleistocene glacier.
d. The Legislature further finds and declares that the “Palisades of the Hudson” contain more than 100,000 acres of parkland and historic sites in New Jersey and New York managed by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission; that the two states formed the interstate park in 1900 to halt the defacement of the Palisades by stone quarries; that the Palisades Interstate Park in New Jersey is about 12 miles long and a half-mile wide, and encompasses 2,500 acres of wild Hudson River shorefront, uplands, and cliffs, more than 30 miles of hiking and ski trails, a boat launching ramp, a scenic riverside drive, a cliff-top parkway and overlooks, riverfront picnic areas and playgrounds, a nature sanctuary, two boat basins, historic sites and miles of rugged woodlands and vistas; and that millions of residents and visitors enjoy the beauty and recreational facilities of the New Jersey Palisades every year.
e. The Legislature also finds and declares that development has occurred in recent years that has altered the beauty of the area in exchange for commercial development, investment, and profit; that the recent approval of a development that will extend high above the ridgeline will damage the iconic natural vista along the Hudson River's western shoreline, a view that is especially rare in one of the most densely populated places in the country; and that once altered, the Palisades and the public's ability to view this unique area in its natural state cannot be restored.
f. The Legislature therefore determines it is necessary and in the best interest of the State to preserve and enhance the Hudson River Palisades as a prime natural resource of importance, for the residents of Hudson and Bergen counties and for the State of New Jersey, to preserve the views from the top of the cliffs as well as the views of the cliffs themselves, by prohibiting any development higher than 35 feet within the viewshed of the Palisades.
2. a. No person may construct a development in the preservation zone of the Hudson River Palisades that exceeds 35 feet in height.
b. No municipality may:
(1) adopt or amend a zoning ordinance so as to allow a development in the preservation zone to exceed 35 feet in height;
(2) issue an approval for an application for development or any other approvals that would allow a development in the preservation zone to exceed 35 feet in height; or
(3) approve a variance pursuant to section 57 of P.L.1975, c.291 (C.40:55D-70) that would allow a development in the preservation zone to exceed 35 feet in height.
c. As used in this section:
"Development" shall have the same meaning as provided in section 3.1 of P.L.1975, c.291 (C.40:55D-4).
"Preservation zone" means all of the land lying between (1) the mean high water line of the Hudson River from the northern boundary of Fort Lee Borough and extending northerly through Englewood Cliffs Borough, Tenafly Borough, and Alpine Borough to the New York State border, and (2) a line 2,000 feet landward from, and parallel to, the line formed by the top or steep edge of the Palisades or the crest of the slope in places where the steep Palisade rocks are absent, from the northern boundary of Fort Lee Borough and extending northerly through Englewood Cliffs Borough, Tenafly Borough, and Alpine Borough to the New York State border.
3. This act shall take effect immediately and shall apply retroactively to any development for which the foundation has not been completed by May 1, 2014.
This bill would prohibit any development that exceeds 35 feet in height in the Hudson River Palisades viewshed. The beauty of the Hudson River Palisades has been threatened by the approval of a high-rise development at the top of the cliffs. The scenic, iconic, and unspoiled views of the lower Hudson River have been protected for over 100 years, and height limits on building above the tree line have been respected until now. This bill would prevent such development from marring the natural beauty of this previously unspoiled ridgeline. The bill would apply retroactively to any development for which the foundation has not been completed by May 1, 2014.