The West Long Branch Mayor and Council is speaking out against legislation that would exempt private universities and colleges, such as Monmouth University, from municipal zoning.
The legislation, which passed the New Jersey Senate and is currently headed toward a hearing in the state Assembly, would allow universities to develop their property without getting variances from a town's zoning board of adjustment.
West Long Branch Mayor Janet Tucci said she and the borough council oppose the legislation and the potential effect it would have on the borough.
"Your Borough Council and I have already made our strong opposition known to our Assemblywomen (Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande)," Tucci said on the borough's website. "We now look for your assistance in voicing your opposition as well."
Mayor Tucci said she would continue to oppose it if it should be passed by the New Jersey Assembly and reach Governor Chris Christie's office.
"This legislation would treat private colleges and universities differently than other inherently beneficial uses, such as hospitals, care centers, senior citizen housing and schools," Mayor Tucci said. "There is no justifiable reason why private colleges and universities should be treated differently than other inherently beneficial uses."
She said the borough and Monmouth University have had a good relationship over the years, but that the legislation would upset the balance.
"In addition, Monmouth University, as well as other private colleges and universities, could expand, with the resultant increased demands for parking, traffic, police protection and fire protection," she said. "This legislation would not only affect current property owned and used by private colleges and universities, but any property which they might acquire in the future. Such a free pass would likely adversely impact residential neighborhoods."
Tucci said a majority of Monmouth University's property is also tax exempt and that if expansion occurs, the new property would also be tax exempt.
"By removing the requirements to comply with municipal zoning regulations, the University would be able to purchase properties, use them for university purposes, and seek a tax exemption for them," Tucci said. "Once that exemption is granted the Borough would no longer be entitled to any municipal tax on the property and would, effectively, lose a ratable."
She said the 14 other New Jersey towns that house a college or university and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities have also opposed the legislation.