The Municipal Land Use Center (MLUC) held its open house last Wednesday in the McCauley House to give the public a chance to mingle with those in charge of planning development in Central New Jersey.
Presentations informed attendees of current projects in the area. The projects included mapping and photographing the Delaware and Raritan canals using geographic information systems (GIS), a digital method, and reducing congestion on Route 31 without building a bypass.
Wansoo Im, consultant to MLUC, and Patrick Meola, head of GIS and computer mapping at MLUC, presented a slide show.
An e-mail from the College invited students to the open house, but the majority of those who showed up were professionally interested in MLUC.
Among the students in attendance was Megan Saunders, a senior sociology major with an interest in planning.
“There are some really influential people involved in planning in this office,” she said.
Susan Albertine, dean of the School of Culture and Society, and Nino Scarpati, director of Civic Leadership Development at the College, were also present.
The opportunity students have to rub elbows with such professionals is among the reasons Albertine said the School of Culture and Society affiliates with MLUC.
“In the past, the Municipal Land Use Center was affiliated with the College as a whole but wasn’t connected to any of the schools,” she said. “It’s a great way to get students involved in the community.”
Marty Bierbaum, executive director of MLUC, hoped that the open house would help strengthen the relationship between MLUC and the College.
“We’re trying to encourage better coordination and exposure with the College community,” he said. “We’d like to have more student interaction and faculty interaction.”
John Karsnitz, chairman of technology studies for the School of Engineering, attended the conference.
“There’s a real obvious connection between land use and technological literacy,” Karsnitz said.
Karsnitz hopes to forge a greater involvement between the School of Engineering and MLUC, possibly creating new paths of study for majors to take.
“We’d like to see a society, ethics and technology option,” he said.
According to Bierbaum, MLUC must satisfy four different overseers to continue its work.
The first is Congressman Rush Holt, who secured the grant money from the Federal Highway Administration needed to form MLUC. Holt wants MLUC to promote economic development and improve the quality of life in Central Jersey.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) seeks improvements in transportation and local land use planning.
“They’re providing well-needed training and education,” Danielle Graves, DOT project engineer, said.
The third is the MLUC advisory board, which expects MLUC to provide local municipalities with information on good environmental practices.
“What we do most is facilitate and educate,” Meola said.
The College has its own goals in associating with MLUC, including improving the educational experience on campus.
“Both students and faculty are involved in projects here,” Albertine said.
The grant that currently supports MLUC is in its final year, and Bierbaum is seeking alternate sources of funding to continue MLUC’s work.
Tineen Howard, principal planner at DOT, expressed confidence that MLUC will continue its work. “I think its work is necessary to deal with sprawl in New Jersey,” he said.