Environment Committee Chair Wary of Highlands Development; Opposes Rutgers-Rowan Merger

Assemblywoman Grace Spencer (D), who ascended to the Chair of the Assembly Environment Committee this year, tells Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the most important task for the Committee is to bring awareness to the state’s air and water quality and land safety.

“Across the state, things are being built and we need to ensure that wherever they’re being built, the land upon which they’re being built is safe and in 20 years there won’t be a problem.”

She says she is not opposed to “good” development, but does oppose developing in areas where development should not occur. There is no reason for over-development, she says, when there are perfectly fine buildings in urban areas that just need to be rehabbed and refurbished.

“There’s no reason to knock down a building that takes up one area a couple of blocks per se and put a thousand units there. There’s no reason for that. Refurbish, rebuild, restore.”

Spencer also spoke out about the controversy surrounding the Highlands. Debate over whether certain development in the Highlands planning area should take place has caused a major changes at the Highlands Council, which is charged with reviewing proposed projects throughout the Highlands Region.

“Certainly the economy is important, certainly development is important, certainly preserving an area that provides 50 percent of the drinking water in the state of New Jersey is important. There’s a certain amount of discussion that has not taken place. And there’s a certain amount of transparency in the dialogues and in the discussion that have gone on, on both sides, that has not transferred over. And that’s where we need to go with it.”

Environment wasn’t the only topic of discussion. Spencer, a Rutgers graduate, is opposed to the Rutgers-Rowen merger, firmly stating that Rutgers-Camden should remain Rutgers-Camden. She is also against any “shake-up” at the UMDNJ.

“That school was founded in the city of Newark. There are Newark agreements that were signed back in the 60s that provided for certain things in that area and to allow that institution to be broken up goes against that agreement. So, I’m against the merger that they’re talking about.”


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