Why Won't the Pinelands Commission Let me Build?!

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Real Estate

Well for one, they're in cahoots with the Jersey Devil.... First we have to understand why the New Jersey Pinelands Commission Exist, What they do, and how they impose their authority to have a greater understanding of why they wont let certain property owners develop their real-estate without going through a lengthy process at an iceberg's pace.


The Pinelands Protection Act was signed into law in the summer of 1979 with the mission to "preserve, protect, and enhance the natural and cultural resources of the Pinelands National Reserve, and to encourage compatible economic and other human activities consistent with that purpose." The New Jersey Pinelands Reserve consists of 1.1 million acres and spans portions of seven counties and all or part of 56 municipalities. The reserve, including by not limited to one of the only dwarf forest in the country (search Pygmy Pine Trees) occupies 22% of New Jersey's land area and it is the largest body of open space on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard between Richmond and Boston.

The Commission enacts the pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan with goal of preserving this wonderful part of our state; however, with great intentions comes challenges. You may have heard Pinelands Approval process being described as Slow as Frozen Molasses, a complete abuse of bureaucratic power, or the workings of the Jersey Devil itself.

You may have heard stories of land owners not being permitted to clear their land of trees, or unable to build a home without utilizing existing foundation, or being responsible for Re-Planting Mature Trees to repent for your pineland sins. The concerns are real and here is how you can take additional steps to protect yourself if you are looking at the feasibility of a buildable lot:
Use the online resource (https://www.nj.gov/pinelands/home/maps/interactivemap/) to determine if your site is within a Managed Area under the rule of the Pinelands Commission. if so then Good Luck Chuck; proceed to step 2.
Call the Pinelands Commission with the Tax Block and Lot and have an "off the Record" conversation. The folks there are pretty helpful and can provide certain knowledge for free; written confirmation such as an exemption letter may cost a few bills, but they last time I reached out regarding one of my listings. the goal is to hopefully verify it is not associated with the management plan or if it is have a status or something on file to suggest steps have be taken for the future approval for the lot.
Last but not least, with this information speaking to the township and your site engineer/architect team to adapt to the challenge of obtaining pinelands approvals as early and often as possible. the saying "if you can't beat em, Join em." shall be replaced with "you will not win with the Pinelands....Submit to the Pinelands Commissions rule or else you will face the curse of the jersey devil"
Yeah Okay... these tree huggers can't stop me... oh yes they can. Their Fees are substantial and their denials and cost you massive project delays for several months. although recently the pinelands commission and DEP has set a target on recreation off road vehicle use, now fining first offender$250 -$500, $500 - $1,000 for a second offense, and a minimum of $1,000 for a third or subsequent offense, they won't hesitate to create challenges which can ultimately kill any momentum of a project.

In Conclusion, in order to preserve the unique beauty of our state there needs to be checks and balances to prevent entire forests being leveled for unchecked land development. It can certainly feel like the Pinelands Commission has a magnifying glass on the small builders and land developers; however, with a little insight and some planning, these additional regulations can be dealt with in an efficient manner.
Written by: 
Nathaniel Geary
Buyers Specialist - The Tom Duffy Team
Office: 856-218-3400
Email us at TomDuffyTeamManager2@gmail.com for a copy of the Pinelands Commission rules and regulations!