Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 45
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
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Facing State Cutbacks, Canal Commission Gets Borough Backing; Supporters Look Ahead

Dilshanie Perera

Members of Borough Council voiced their support for the work of the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission (DRCC), passing a resolution to that end at their meeting last week.

On the list of New Jersey State Commissions that might be cut by the governor and legislature, the DRCC currently works as a regulatory body that considers applications for development along the canal and its catch basin.

The body’s main goals are to review actions proposed by the state as they affect the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park, to plan for development of the park, and to prepare and administer a land use program that will protect the Canal Park from potentially harmful impacts of development in the area.

Residents Kip Cherry and Chair of the Central New Jersey Sierra Club Terry Stimpfel spoke in support of the work of the Canal Commission, explaining that the elimination of the commission would require a vote by the State legislature.

“The termination of the DRCC will not create financial savings for the state,” Ms. Cherry cautioned, contending that the commission gets little state funding, and that it spurs efficiency because it is focused on a specific geographic area. She highlighted the D&R Canal as a “major source of drinking water” for local municipalities and the state park as a “major source of tourism.”

Ms. Stimpfel characterized the commission as “totally revenue neutral,” comprised of eight volunteer commissioners appointed by the governor and approved by the legislature, and that in the 30 years it has addressed land use issues along the canal, the DRCC has raised $20 million from grants and fees for improvements to the park, she reported.

“This reasoning sounds very compelling,” Borough Council member Jenny Crumiller said, requesting another point of view as to why the state is considering eliminating the body.

“It’s definitely on the chopping block,” Ms. Stimpfel remarked. “The commission is there to protect the historic as well as natural resources for the state and is designed to last longer than political philosophies and different thinking. They’ve done that very well for the past 30 years.”

Council member Kevin Wilkes speculated as to the state’s rationale for putting the DRCC on the list of commissions to be eliminated. “Any development project in the area goes to the DRCC. It’s an extra review step that is outside the municipal review … this is yet another layer of regulatory review for not just the state, but for any private developer who is disturbing over one acre of land within the area.” He reasoned that eliminating the commission was a “method by which the state can strip away another layer of regulatory review …. I suspect the entire motivation here is to make life a little easier for developer folk.”

Councilman David Goldfarb called the canal a “tremendous resource,” while Council President Andrew Koontz described it as “a major attractor as far as recreational opportunities for our region …. It is important to continue to support the park.”

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