The state's environmental groups and the state's municipalities don't agree on much. When they do agree, it's worth paying attention.
And both groups want Gov. Chris Christie to veto a bill that was rushed through the Legislature and approved in March. The measure would freeze zoning and development rules at the time when an application is filed. And the environmental organizations and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities are right: Christie should veto it.
This is a chance for the governor to show that he does have a green side, that he really doesn't intend to gut all environmental regulation. Because frankly, his rhetoric and his moves so far regarding the environment have been mostly pro-business, pro-development, anti-regulation. And regulation isn't necessarily a dirty word.
Under current law, a planning board or zoning board judges an application for development according to the rules in effect at the time the board is making its decision. A developer's application could have been initiated years earlier (particularly in this economic climate, which has stalled many projects). In the mean time, the town could have significantly revised its zoning ordinance.
The new rules should be the ones that apply. They were, after all, presumably made for good reason and reflect the desires of the town's residents. And if a developer feels such changes are unfair, he can always appeal to the courts.
That's why the League of Municipalities, the New Jersey Environmental Federation, the Association of New Jersey Enviromental Commissions and other environmental groups are urging Christie to veto the bill, of which state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, was one of the primary sponsors.
The legislation simply goes too far in tilting the balance of power between developers and a town's ability to determine its own fate.
Certainly, some land-use regulations are overly burdensome to developers. But if a developer can freeze the rules at the time of his application - or even, the enviromentalists insist, an incomplete application - a town will have lost the ability to respond to new concerns, new data, changing demographics or a host of other constantly evolving variables.
Christie took office on a mission to cut and streamline regulations and to make New Jersey a better place to do business. That's fine. But he - and the state - need a balance. Vetoing this unnecessary piece of legislation that puts a developer's interests above the interests of a town's residents gives the governor a chance to show that he understands there are two legitimate sides to the issue of land-use regulation - and not just the builders' side.