Please join us on Thursday, December 15 from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM as we celebrate this year’s Planning Excellence Award honorees. You can purchase tickets here.
Budd Chavooshian Award for Outstanding Professional Planner
Walter C. Lane, AICP, PP
A champion and change-maker in Somerset County for over two decades, Walter Lane currently serves as the Director of the Office of Planning, Policy, and Economic Development, where he has led and managed numerous projects and initiatives that have demonstrated his unwavering belief in the value that county planning can provide such as spearheading the award-winning “Supporting Priority Investment” in Somerset County initiative which allowed to the County to work with every municipality to strategically align planning and investment decisions across all levels of government.
Under his leadership, Somerset County was the first county in New Jersey to be designated as an “Age Friendly County” by the American Association of Retired Persons and the World Health Organization, and most recently, developed a comprehensive Somerset County Preservation Plan, which is the first of its kind in New Jersey coordinating all aspects of preservation programs including open space, farmland and historic. Since 20414, Mr. Lane’s efforts have successfully preserved nearly 1,000 acres of open space, preserved over 820 acres of farmland, and provided over $7.8 million in funding for historic preservation projects.
During his tenure as President of the New Jersey County Planners Association, the organization showcased the excellent work county planning departments provide to the residents of New Jersey. He also initiated a task force during the height of the pandemic to develop a long-range recovery plan entitled “Creating a Healthier, Prosperous and More Equitable Future for All New Jersey’s Residents.”
Distinguished Civic Leadership Award
The Honorable Mia Sacks
In 2019, Mia Sacks ran for office on a “Proactive Planning for Princeton” platform. During her first term, she launched a complete overhaul of Princeton’s outdated Master Plan and spearheaded the passage of New Jersey’s first Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance, which became a model for towns around the state.
As Chair of Princeton Council’s Affordable Housing, Planning and Redevelopment Committee, Sacks spent the last three years overseeing the implementation of the town’s Affordable Housing Settlement that will bring more than 700 new units of net zero ready housing to Princeton – all located close to transit, shopping, employment, civic and recreational spaces. A newly created redevelopment zone encompassing two housing developments, and a long-declining shopping center, will bring much-needed economic revitalization to the entire area. Another newly created redevelopment area will replace an abandoned office complex with a housing mix that includes 30% affordable units for seniors and developmentally disabled adults.
Councilwoman Sacks also led the creation of affordable housing overlay zones in the center of Princeton that incentivize redevelopment consisting of multi-family residential with a minimum 20% affordable set-aside, along with ground-level retail, services, commercial and office space.
As an elected official, Sacks has seen first-hand the tangible ways that planning tools impact all areas of people’s lives and has become passionately involved in using those tools to strengthen her community more equitably. Recently elected to a second term, Sacks looks forward to continuing her work in planning a sustainable, smart growth-oriented future for Princeton.
Distinguished Emerging Planner Award
Barkha R. Patel
Shortly after graduating from Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy with a master’s degree in City and Regional Planning in 2015, Ms. Patel went to work as a Senior Planner with the Jersey City Division of Planning, reviewing site plan applications and redevelopment plans. She was the representative for the City on NJTPA’s Regional Advisory Committee and would administrate transportation grants for the city. She soon became the city’s designated Transportation Planner taking the lead on transportation planning initiatives, including a Bike Master Plan, School Travel Plan, a City-Wide Bicycle Master Plan, and forming the Jersey City Vision Zero Task Force.
Successfully implementing innovative solutions to urban planning problems is her specialty. Ms. Patel is to thank for miles of city streets being re-designed to accommodate all users safely. Her demonstration project along Bergen Avenue – a critical connection to Journal Square—turned into a full road diet that protects pedestrians and cyclists alike. Grand Street, an important connector for residents of various residential neighborhoods to reach the Downtown commercial district, was a significant undertaking that was years in the making with multiple phases and is now almost complete.
Her career path speaks to her effectiveness. Today, she oversees the Department of Infrastructure, which encompasses the Divisions of Architecture, Engineering, Traffic Engineering, Transportation Planning, and Sustainability, and the Office of Innovation. After just eight short years, she manages hundreds of City employees and over $100 million in capital improvement projects.
James W. Hughes Applied Research Award
Jeffrey G. Otteau, ASA, IFA, SCGREA
A thought leader for real estate market analysis for over four decades, Jeffrey currently serves as the Chief Economist of Otteau Group, Inc. and as Managing Broker for Hudson Atlantic Realty Advisors. Jeffrey is also the editor of a real estate information service focused on the Tri-State Area, which has thousands of subscribers, including real estate professionals interested in market dynamics and commercial banks requiring risk management guidance. Under his leadership, Otteau Group and Hudson Atlantic have become the most prominent real estate advisory firms in New Jersey.
Jeffrey’s work focuses on shaping planning and development at the intersection of economic, demographic, and market dynamics. His services are utilized by private and public sector clients seeking forward guidance in planning sustainable development, which is both beneficial to local communities and economically viable. He has been consistently recognized for his industry leadership, including NJBIZ in its annual ranking of The Most Influential in Real Estate and ROI NJ as a Top-10 Real Estate Professional. He is frequently quoted in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and has made television appearances on NBC, CNBC, Bloomberg, and Fox 5 News.
Jeffrey is a Senior Accredited Member of the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) and holds the State Certified General Real Estate Appraiser certification in multiple states. Jeffrey has served on the Appraisal Standards Advisory Council of the Appraisal Foundation in Washington, D.C., in consulting on its agenda of projects and major technical issues. He is a past Chairman of the Employee Relocation Council’s Appraisal Standards Council, which inducted him into their distinguished Hall of Leaders.
Jeffrey has been qualified as an expert in State and Federal Court, including Judge Jacobsen’s Fair-Share methodology trial in Mercer County Superior Court. He has also appeared at hundreds of municipal and county proceedings on land use matters, authored several market analysis texts, and lectured throughout North America.
Stuart Meck Distinguished Service Award
Deborah Schulze oversees the Summer City Planning Institute, launched in 2017. It introduces students from urban areas to the city planning process and provides them with the tools to critically evaluate challenges and work with government officials to create plans for making positive changes in their communities. As a certified teacher and planner, Ms. Schulze authored the curriculum and implementation guide, which was the recipient of a national grant to provide a framework to other APA chapters throughout the country.
Since the program’s inception, the City Planning Institute has served over 1000 students throughout New Jersey. The first program was run for a single class in Newark in its after-school program, where students were asked to re-envision a blighted property and redesign it. Today, the program has grown into a full-scale summer institute where students are paid to do city planning work in partnership with municipalities and community organizations. Projects have included graffiti art inventories, the creation of restaurant walking guides for downtowns, neighborhood-wide property assessments, community engagement workshops, park designs, safe walking route streetscapes, and concept designs for new developments.
Ms. Schulze’s students have delivered more than 30 proposals and presentations to city officials and stakeholders over the years, some making their way to resolution and implementation. APA New Jersey is pleased to be a partner in these efforts and extends its deepest appreciation to Ms. Schulze for her unmatched dedication to the next generation of leaders.