Somerset County Planning Director Named June 2014 Sustainability Hero Also Receives NJ Future Lifetime Achievement Award
Sustainable Jersey has named Somerset County Planning Director Robert Bzik, PP, AICP, of Bound Brook as its Sustainability Hero for June 2014.
“Bob is one of the most knowledgeable and well-respected planners in New Jersey and the tri-state region,” said Somerset County Freeholder Director Patrick Scaglione. “This is a well-deserved honor and one that aptly illustrates some of the key accomplishments of his planning career.”
New Jersey Future, the state's premier smart-growth planning organization, also presented Bzik with a lifetime achievement award for advancing regional planning at the 2014 Smart Growth Awards on June 5. The Somerset County Planning Board also was one of the eight statewide smart-growth award recipients for its work in "Advancing Priority Growth Investment Opportunities."
Bzik, who will retire as of July 1, graduated from Seton Hall University with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He then took some planning classes at the progressive New School in New York City before graduating from Rutgers University with a master’s degree in City and Regional Planning in 1974.
He joined the Somerset County Planning Board in 1981, after working briefly outside of New Jersey. He quickly rose through the ranks from principal planner, supervising planner, chief of strategic planning and to director in 1990, during the height of the county’s building boom. He was instrumental in setting up many of the county Planning Board’s cutting-edge initiatives, including the Economic Development Incentive Program and the Municipal Planning Partnership Program.
His leadership has helped the Planning Board receive over two dozen national and state awards and it is now recognized as one of the most progressive and successful boards in New Jersey. He is a strong advocate and supporter of state and regional planning and helped guide the County through three rounds of cross acceptance, numerous municipal center designations and the first tri-municipal Regional Center Plan Endorsement.
Bzik was an active board member of the former Municipal Land Use Center (now the Sustainability Institute at The College of New Jersey) and in this position he helped launch Sustainable Jersey in 2009. He is a strong supporter of municipalities in Somerset County that are pursuing Sustainable Jersey certification. He started the Sustainable Jersey Somerset County Green Team Leadership group, which is bringing towns together to share successes and opportunities for collaboration with the county. Currently, 18 out of a total of 21 municipalities in Somerset County are participating in Sustainable Jersey.
In bestowing the Sustainability Hero award, Sustainable Jersey pointed to the creation of the Somerset County Energy Council, innovative storm-water management practices, the Planning Board’s expanded role in hazard mitigation, the county’s aggressive open-space and farmland preservation program, and smart-growth initiatives designed to promote targeted development and redevelopment – all of which have been guided by the county planning director.
“For Somerset County, the past focused primarily around the fight against the altering of the suburban landscape,” Bzik said. “The issues ahead will deal with land stewardship, park and trail development, adaptive reuse, repositioning aging corporate facilities, downtown revitalization, resiliency and sustainable land practices and economic development.
“The 21 Somerset County towns, the business community and Somerset County must work together to address the challenge for future generations of maintaining the special qualities of the county while remaining economically competitive,” he added.