Appeals court sides with Highlands Council in case brought by Fair Share Housing

TRENTON – The Fair Share Housing Center has lost an appeal regarding how the Highlands Planning Council approved master plans for two municipalities: Clinton and High Bridge.

The Council has authority over land use planning in an environmentally sensitive region of New Jersey, and Fair Share Housing contends it did not follow proper procedure regarding plan conformance.

But Superior Court today ruled otherwise.

The Highlands region encompasses about 88 towns in seven counties and is home to key drinking water resources, but its protection from development has often pitted business interests against environmental concerns.

Towns with lands in the Highlands planning area must conform  with the regional master plan.

“For the most part, the Center’s arguments are fairly characterized as broad assertions that the Council has not adopted any regulations,” the court said in its ruling, and the court set aside claims that due process was not followed.

The Fair Share Housing Center is a 38-year-old organization that fights for the housing rights of New Jersey’s poor residents.

Kevin Walsh of the Fair Share Housing Center said that despite the fact the Highlands Act is supposed to provide balance and encourage development in the right places, “There are no rules, really, that guide what goes on. “

He said that this morning’s ruling, “unfortunately will contribute to a sense of lawlessness in the Highlands.’’

Appeals court sides with Highlands Council in case brought by Fair Share Housing