The news of a week and a half ago that the Senate would not vote on lengthening the Permit Extension Act by another two years comes at a bad time for the building industry.
Of course, the building industry knows all about bad times. Since the recession, the industry has looked forward to things like funerals and tax-filing days, because at least they weren’t the only ones who were so blue. The foreclosures and credit problems effectively put a stop to residential development, and the permits secured by builders — in New Jersey, this represents the hardest part of the construction process — for projects would have expired if not for the original 2008 law, which was extended in 2010 when it became clear the market was turning around slower than an 18-wheeler on a two-lane side street.
This round, however, went to the environmentalists, who in times of peace called the bill an expansion, and when the fighting got ugly, it was relabeled “the Dracula clause” by the Sierra Club, which argued the measure put environmentally sensitive areas on the drawing board for future development. The bill does expand the geographical areas in which approvals can be extended, but given that the act only covers previously approved projects, we don’t feel it’s legitimate to compare it to one of Bram Stoker’s creations.
Still, this is one that could easily be resolved by removing that amendment to the bill. Shelving it, as the Senate did, only compounds the problems faced by an industry that’s as high strung as a racehorse. Getting this out of the way two weeks ago would have been a strong seal of approval for projects that shouldn’t need to go back to the drawing board. With budget negotiations dominating the schedule now, we’re pessimistic this gets resolved soon, but hope lawmakers make it a focus for the near future.