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Palisades protection advances in NJ Senate

Legislation sets height limit in three Hudson River towns


New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Courtesy of Protect the Palisades
TRENTON - The New Jersey Senate's Environment and Energy Committee voted today, Thursday, June 5, to pass legislation to protect the historic viewshed of the Hudson River Palisades.

The bill, which would set a building height limit north of Fort Lee, was approved after a hearing at which numerous speakers emphasized the need for permanent protections for the Palisades. LG Electronics proposes to construct a 143-foot office tower in the Palisades town of Englewood Cliffs, exceeding local zoning height limits by more than four times.

Among the speakers were Maureen Ogden, former Assemblywoman and former Palisades Interstate Park Commission member; Alpine Borough Mayor Paul Tomasko; Roger Platt, senior vice president of the U.S. Green Building Council; Mark Izeman, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council; Eileen Swan, policy manager for New Jersey Conservation Foundation; Tom Wright, executive director of the Regional Plan Association; Ed Goodell, executive director of the New York New Jersey Trails Conference; and Hayley Carlock, environmental attorney with Scenic Hudson.

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.

Towns north of Fort Lee have historically protected the natural Palisades panorama though zoning laws setting a maximum building height of 35 feet. Despite the growth of the communities, no significant intrusion was allowed to interrupt the nationally acclaimed vista.

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.

Height not needed for energy efficiency

At the Senate committee hearing, Platt disputed LG's claims that a high-rise building is necessary to achieve energy efficiency certification, known as Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED). LEED is a program of the U.S. Green Building County.

"To suggest that somehow LEED is forcing them to make this bad decision is ludicrous. Good project teams can always find creative ways to both meet LEED credits and honor the place where the building will stand," said Platt. He further explained that none of LEED's minimum requirements or optional credits is driving the proposed height, citing statements of LG's team.

The Palisades protection bill was proposed on April 28, after Mayor Tomasko and former Governors James Florio and Christine Todd Whitman offered testimony before the Senate committee about the negative impacts of the LG tower. The Assembly filed an identical bill two weeks later.

The Palisades holds the rare distinction of being named both a National Historic and a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.

Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation, praised the Senate committee for sending the bill to the full Senate for action.

"The Palisades north of Fort Lee are a priceless American landmark, and appear now much as they did to the first American inhabitants," said Byers. "The LG office tower is a symptom of a greater problem, in that current local zoning does not provide adequate protection for this national monument and state treasure - a pride of New Jersey. Protecting the Palisades in perpetuity through state legislation will guarantee this legacy for future generations."

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