Ruling Palisades a ‘National Treasure,’ Decision May Help Protect Views and Vistas

In rejecting a plan to build an office tower that would have loomed over the Palisades, court says zoning board failed to consider visual impact

The Palisades at Englewood Cliffs, viewed from upper Manhattan.
A state appeals court decision in a case involving a proposal to build a huge office tower overlooking the Palisades in Englewood Cliffs may give impetus to protect other scenic vistas along what the judges called a “national treasure.’’

In a 30-page ruling handed down yesterday, the court said the local zoning board failed to consider the visual impact of a 143-foot-high building LG Electronics USA wanted to erect as a new headquarters on a site in the Bergen County community.

The decision will pave the way for a compromise scaling down the new headquarters to less than 70 feet high. But conservationists said the more far-reaching implication could lead to permanent protection for the entire Palisades.

To that end, Eileen Swan, policy director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, a plaintiff in the court case, said advocates would press for passage of a bill ([link:|S-2025) that would prohibit development higher than 35 feet in the Hudson River watershed. The bill is awaiting action by a Senate committee.

“The entire decision makes it clear that we must move ahead with permanent protections of the Palisades,’’ said Swann, who added that conservation groups stand by the compromise they reached with LG Electronics.

[related]Hayley Carlock, director of environmental advocacy for Scenic LG noted the court approved six variances for its $300 million project while remanding the height issue back to the town. “LG will proceed with the town in alignment with the win-win settlement agreement reached in June with the conservation groups that intervened in the case,’’ said John Taylor, a spokesman for the company.

The project, in the works since 2009, will allow LG to double its employment in Englewood Cliffs and create thousands of much-needed construction jobs, while protecting the Palisades for decades to come, Taylor said.

When it was unveiled, the original LG project sparked widespread criticism on both sides of the Hudson River as well as from four former governors of New Jersey — Brendan Byrne, Jim Florio, Tom Kean, and Christine Todd Whitman.

Critics contended that the tower, if built as planned, would have destroyed the iconic views of the Palisades, designated both a national historic landmark and a national natural landmark, by rising 80 feet above the tree line.

Those fears have been allayed by the court decision, they said. “The protection of the Palisades for future generations is now recognized,’’’ said the Concerned Residents of Englewood Cliffs.

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