Opinion: N.J. private universities should not be exempt from local planning, zoning approvals

Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu
Martin Griff / The Times of Trenton. By Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu.

The New Jersey Assembly is considering legislation A2586, while S1534 has been approved by the Senate. These measures would exempt private universities and colleges from gaining approval from municipal planning and zoning boards when they seek to develop their land. A past court decision exempts public colleges and universities from the need to secure these approvals, because they are seen as instruments of the state that are serving a critical public mission.

The fractured logic behind this legislation is that private institutions should be treated as public institutions because they also “contribute substantially to that important public mission.”

But the primary danger in extending this exemption is that private colleges and universities are also private developers.

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