Yes, Building in the Highlands Preservation Area is Possible: Court Upholds NJDEP Exemption for Church Project as “Reconstruction” Within “Footprint” of Previous Development

New Jersey’s Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act (Highlands Act), which created and granted substantial powers to a regional Council, has engendered significant controversy, especially with respect to the strict development restrictions it imposes within a statutorily defined preservation area. Certain redevelopment projects, however, are exempt from those restrictions, and a recent Appellate Division upheld the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) interpretation of key statutory provisions when it determined that a multi-purpose redevelopment project qualified for such an exemption.