The Town Crier - Legislative Backgrounder

The Town Crier - Legislative Backgrounder

Jul 16

[ARCHIVED] Governor Signs Package of Clean Energy Bills

The original item was published from July 16, 2021 11:25 AM to July 16, 2021 11:40 AM

Recently, Governor Murphy signed a package of four bills (S-3223, A-1653, A-4554, and A-5434) concerning clean energy and electric vehicles.   Three of these new laws have municipal implications that our members should be aware of and are explained in greater detail below.

S-3223, now P.L.2021, c.171, makes an application for development submitted solely for the installation of electric vehicle supply equipment or Make-Ready parking spaces a permitted accessory use and permitted accessory structure in all zoning or use district within a municipality regardless of the municipality’s zoning ordinance.  The new law also bars site plan or other land use board review of an application for development of electric vehicle supply equipment or Make-Ready parking spaces at an existing gasoline service station, an existing retail establishment, or any other existing building. As a result such applications will not need a variance, and will require the issuance of a zoning permit by the administrative officer, provided the application meets the following requirements:

  1. The proposed installation does not violate bulk requirements or conditions of the original or any subsequent  final site plan approvals;
  2. All other conditions of prior approvals for the property continue to be met; and
  3. The proposed installation complies with the Uniform Construction Code and other safety regulations regarding electric vehicle charging stations.

The new law also sets numerical requirements on the number of parking spaces that must have or be Make-Ready for electric vehicle charging stations as a condition of preliminary site plan approval for each application involving a multiple dwelling with five or more units.  The number of parking spaces required for electric vehicle charging or Make-Ready is determined by the amount of off-street parking and other factors.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this new law is the development of a “model ordinance” that will become effective within each municipality without the need for municipal action.  This model ordinance is to be developed and published by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and is to address the installation, sightline, and setback requirements and other health and safety-related specifications for electric vehicle supply equipment and Make-Ready parking spaces.  The model ordinance must be enacted by DCA, then enforced by municipalities, within 30 days (August 9, 2021), and does not need to follow the rulemaking process. Meaning, the DCA will be able to draft and adopt the ordinance that municipalities will be mandated to enforce without requiring public notice or comment.

This law took effect July 9, 2021.

A-1653, now P.L.2021, c.168, expands upon the recent change made to the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law requiring the location of electric vehicle charging facilities be considered within a redevelopment plan, to now require consideration of zero-emission vehicle charging and refueling.   The new law also opens up financing opportunities to help cover the costs of developing zero-emission vehicle refueling and electric vehicle charging stations, which were not previously available.

This law took effect July 9, 2021.

A-5434, now P.L.2021, c.170, directs the Board of Public Utilities (“BPU”), in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, to establish a “Dual-Use Solar Energy Pilot Program” to permit the construction, installation, and operation of dual-use solar projects on unpreserved farmland.   The pilot program would last for 36 months with a maximum of two 12-month additional periods, at the conclusion of which the BPU is required to adopt regulations to make the program permanent.  

Dual-use solar allows for the land underneath and surrounding solar panels to continue to be used for agricultural and horticultural purposes.  Those seeking to install and operate a dual use solar project would apply to the BPU and need to meet standards set by the BPU and Secretary of Agriculture.   Approved dual-use solar projects are to be considered a permitted use within every municipality.

Land used for an approved dual-use solar energy project may be eligible for farmland valuation, assessment, and taxation, provided it meets certain criteria including:

  1. The project is located on unpreserved farmland that is continuing to be operated as a farm in the tax year a farmland assessment is applied for;
  2. The project is located on land that was, in the previous tax year, valued, assessed, and taxed as land in agricultural or horticultural use;
  3. The land the project is located on continues to be actively devoted to agricultural and horticultural use, and meets current income requirements;
  4. BPU approval of the project has not been revoked or suspended; and
  5. All other farmland assessment requirements are met.

This law took effect July 9, 2021.

We suggest you should review these three new laws in greater detail with your municipal attorney, administrator and construction official for additional information on the impact the new laws.

 Frank Marshall, Esq., Associate General Counsel, or 609-695-3481 x 137.