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Senate committee discusses protection for Palisades

Legislation may set height limit in three towns along Hudson


TRENTON - The New Jersey Senate's Environment and Energy Committee heard testimony today on potential legislation to protect historic views of the Palisades by setting a building height limit north of Fort Lee.

Former Governors James Florio and Christine Todd Whitman, and Alpine Borough Mayor Paul Tomasko, stressed the need for permanent protections for the Palisades, where LG Electronics has received approval from Englewood Cliffs to construct a 143-foot office tower.

The proposed bill would create a "Protection Zone" north of Fort Lee with a maximum building height of 35 feet. The zone would extend through the towns of Englewood Cliffs, Tenafly and Alpine.

"New Jersey can be proud of the history of the Palisades, which holds the rare distinction of being both a National Historic and a National Natural Landmark. It was because of our citizens' work that this honor was bestowed on the Palisades so that they would forever be protected," said Governor Whitman. "But now that we see that decades of protection can be undone by one action, I believe legislation is necessary."

The three towns north of Fort Lee have historically protected the Palisades views though zoning laws setting a maximum building height of 35 feet. Despite the growth of the communities, no significant intrusion was allowed to spoil the natural beauty of the Palisades.

But in February 2012, the Englewood Cliffs Zoning Board of Adjustment granted a variance allowing LG Electronics to build an office tower more than four times the permitted building height. The LG tower would rise 80 feet above the Palisades Interstate Park tree line, forever altering an unspoiled view that has awed and inspired generations.

Opponents to the proposed building have pointed out that LG could build an energy efficient, low rise building on its ample 27 acre site so as to grow the economy at the same time as protecting an American national treasure.

"This legislation provides an opportunity for New Jersey to express its value in harmonizing economic benefits with environmental sensitivity," said Governor Florio.

"Mayors and elected officials have for decades protected the Palisades through our zoning; we are proud of our National Landmark status and know that we can have economic growth while protecting our natural and historic heritage," said Mayor Tomasko. "Our citizens have expressed outrage that commercial interests could needlessly destroy a National Landmark."

Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation, praised the Senate committee for its interest in protecting the Palisades.

"Kudos to the Environment and Energy Committee for proposing bold action to ensure that a century of work by New Jerseyans to protect the Palisades is not abandoned," said Byers. "The Palisades are part of our national heritage. The proposed bill would ensure that the views of this magnificent landmark will inspire the same wonder in our children as it did to the first inhabitants of America."

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