Lawmakers in New Jersey have proposed legislation that would require communities to weigh the regional economic impact of proposed big-box stores before granting approval.
As drafted, the law would apply to stores over 130,000 square feet that sell at least 25,000 items with a minimum of ten percent of their revenue in nontaxable groceries. The measure would therefore cover Wal-Mart, Target, and Kmart supercenters, but would not affect big-box stores that do not sell groceries, such as Home Depot and Staples.
The legislation has two primary components. The first requires cities and towns to commission a regional economic impact study that would examine the effect of the store on retail employment, wages and benefits, existing businesses, commercial vacancies, the cost of public services, and the vehicle miles traveled by area residents for shopping.
Local governments “really should have as much information as possible going into the process,” said Senator Stephen Sweeney, one of the bill’s sponsors. City governments commonly approve big-box projects relying only on the job and tax figures supplied by the developer and with no information on potential costs.
The second component requires the municipality to notify neighboring towns of the proposed development. After reviewing the project, each adjoining community has the option of issuing a “resolution of intermunicipal concerns.” These concerns must then be addressed by a board composed of representatives of each of the surrounding towns.
The host city may approve the project only if it determines that the store would not cause “substantial detriment to the general welfare of the adjoining municipality based on the specific areas of intermunicipal concern raised” and that it would not impair the “intent and purpose of the master plan or zoning ordinance of the adjoining municipality.”
Neighboring communities may appeal the host town’s decision to a statewide Intermunicipal Impact Advisory Board.
Hearings on the bill began in November. Additional hearings are expected this month.