November 15 Conference Update
First, thanks to everyone that submitted session ideas. They ranged from requests for topics, offers to speak, and fully formed sessions and in total proposed nearly twice as many presentations as we have the ability to present. We have undertaken the task of boiling this down to a working grid of sessions and the calls and emails to our moderators and speakers are occurring now to lock everything down.
Second, I want to convey my congratulations to Henry Kent-Smith and Robert Baranowski of the Land Use Section of the NJ Bar on the success of the Land Use Institute this week. ICLE has dusted off this storied franchise and had a capacity crowd in their facility. A number of APANJ members served as speakers and the program went very well.
Third, I wanted to take the opportunity to share some “inside baseball” on the process of organizing our conference. Years ago, our conference was a single day affair and over the past several years, things were slowly added to the proceeding Thursday evening, then afternoon, and then last year we went full day but with limited programming focused on the response to Sandy and the re-boot of the Land Use Institute. The LUI has returned to its original home, and in my call-for-sessions I had proposed keeping last year’s format but re-purposing the “special” nature of the day to advanced planning practice – in depth “how-to” sessions under the rubric of the Advanced Planning Institute. Well, the idea of focusing some sessions more on practice and less on “reports from the field” about current projects seems to have caught on with our proposers. We had many great proposals – far more than could fit on Thursday. Also, the success of ICLE’s event proved that we could have planning law content at both events without cannibalizing the same audience. So, we will again offer a variety of sessions on variances, redevelopment law changes, etc. The result is that API and planning law material will occur on both days in various spots. Effectively, we have moved to a true 2-day event. Thursday will remain organized around subject tracks and Friday will be more free-wheeling, but both will offer a range of choices.
Another lesson confirmed last year was our session lengths. Many conferences are built around the one-hour-and-fifteen-minute session with 2 before lunch and 2 after, resulting in 5 hours of programming. Last year we experimented with a different approach with 2 one-hour-and-thirty-minute sessions before lunch and a two-hour session after lunch. This is the same 5 hours of daily programming, but in larger pieces. The extra 15 minutes in the standard session provides that missing few minutes for questions, which always seems to get lost in the shorter format. The two-hour format allowed more in-depth presentations and ultimately triggered our API notion. Reactions were positive last year, and this year’s event will be built on this pattern.
Lastly, while there is a lot of great content developing on many topics,, I am personally very pleased to share that will have a very special track on Thursday focused on the Mount Laurel doctrine. While there have been many sessions and events on this topic recently, I think we have organized something special. We will host a half dozen of our leading academics and authors that have wrestled with the question of what exactly is the goal of the doctrine – a trickier question that you might expect – and given their individual answers to that question, how do they propose to measure success, and ultimately how successful have we been? This 3-hour session will also include a presentation on the lessons that we have learned from a public administration perspective from the history of the Fair Housing Act and State Planning Act as a guide for future legislative actions. After lunch, we have a session on the competing future alternatives from a COAH-reboot to other models from around the country. I am hopeful that this day-long event can provide the foundation for future discussions and legislative initiatives grounded on substantive analysis and learned perspectives that we have been able to assemble.
SO HOLD THE DATE…..You will want to be in New Brunswick on January 23 and 24.