In late November of last year, Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle introduced A-4725 which has been referred to the Assembly State and Local Government Committee but not yet scheduled for a hearing. This bill would establish an examination and certification program for zoning officers and land use board administrators and would create additional State oversight of the profession. This bill is similar to those introduced in the past (A-2116 in 2006 and A-3462 in 2008) which the League opposed.
While the League endorses continuing education for appointed and elected officials, we have concerns that new requirements proposed in A-4725 are unnecessary, bureaucratic and infringe on local discretion. We also believe that the bill may impede efforts to deliver this function via an interlocal service agreement.
The League is in discussion with the sponsor and other interested stakeholders in an effort to find common ground on amendments to address our concerns. However, until appropriate amendments are made we must remain opposed to A-4725.
Among other things, A-4725 would do the following:
- Provide the DCA with authority to review and possibly disallow municipal shared service agreements pertaining to zoning officers and land use board administrators,
- Require the Department of Community Affairs (“DCA”) to establish a certification program for zoning officers and land use board administrators,
- Prohibit anyone from being appointed, reappointed, or continuing employment as a zoning officer or land use board administrator unless that person holds a certificate issued by the DCA,
- Make obtaining a certificate from the DCA a condition of employment for zoning officers and land use board administrators,
- Require anyone seeking a certificate to be a zoning officer and/or land use board administrator to:
- Be at least 21 years of age,
- Have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent,
- Have completed at least two years of education at a college of recognized standing (with possible exceptions based on experience),
- Have completed the course of study in planning and zoning administration and enforcement developed by the DCA (40 hours for initial certification and 20 hours every 3 years for renewal),
- Pay a $50 fee to the State.
- Define land use board administrator to include the administrative secretary of a municipal planning board and zoning board of adjustment.
To be clear, A-4725 does not directly require municipalities to expend funds to cover costs associated with certification and continued education of zoning officers and land use board administrators, however, the practical reality is that this cost will be borne, one way or another, by municipalities. The certification and continued education requirements as a condition of employment virtually insures this. Working under a 2% levy cap means that every additional dollar municipalities are required to spend must be taken away from other necessary services.
Michael Cerra, Assistant Executive Director, MCerra@njslom.org or 609-695-3481 x 120.
Frank Marshall, League Staff Attorney, FMarshall@njslom.org or 609-695-3481 x 137.