Doing Business In Highlands, NJ

Welcome to Highlands

A waterfront retreat with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean and New York City skyline from hills that spiral down to the cool bay and ocean waters.  Located on the Northern tip of the New Jersey Shore, Highlands is less than an hour from Manhattan. New Yorkers don't even have to get in a car to relax and enjoy an escape to Highlands. Seastreak ferry, leaves from Manhattan, Pier 11 or East 34th Street and can get you here in about 45 minutes. Taking the ferry is part of the Highlands experience, when you get here, you will feel welcomed with old fashioned charm and friendly faces. Highlands is the first stop on the New Jersey Shore and many people come to enjoy sunbathing, surfing, fishing, wind surfing, boating and to experience New Jersey’s long tradition of maritime heritage at our lighthouses, our marinas and our coastal heritage trails. No matter what season, Highlands has everything for a perfect weekend away from it all. 

Working Together:
Highlands is known for its sense of community, especially when it comes to business. Every merchant is a partner working to build a town that has something for everyone. Whether you’re a start-up venture or looking to open your next location, there are services, professionals and volunteers to help every step of the way. Come see why Highlands has so much to offer.

Back to the Basics:
One of the most exciting aspects of a town updating their Master Plan and Zoning Regulations are the incredible new business opportunities. Positive word of mouth, good PR and extensive media coverage have solidified the town’s reputation as a place filled with opportunities for a wide variety of businesses.

Strong Anchors:
Highlands has twenty restaurants but nowhere else will you find such an eclectic selection of cuisine served in a half square mile. From the New York Times to the Asbury Park Press and many regional magazines, the attention has been overwhelming. In the past 3 years alone, 30% of our restaurants have been Zagat rated. Our famous waterfront "Dock and Dine" restaurants and the variety of choices, along with our unique Bed and Breakfasts and full service Marina's, continue to make Highlands a famous visitor destination.

While Highlands has less retail than restaurants, our merchants offer a small town personal shopping experience with unique products and services that are becoming increasingly desirable among many consumers, the Highlands Business Partnership and the Borough of Highlands welcome your talents, resources and treasures. Highlands is the perfect place to for an antique market place.

Easy Access:
Located on the Northern tip of the New Jersey Shore, Highlands is an hour from NYC by bus, train or car. First class, high speed ferry service is available from Highlands, perfect for a stress free commute, arriving in downtown Manhattan, Pier 11 in less than 45 minutes.

Public Parking is FREE...

Area Transportation & Directions to Highlands:

Click here for maps, directions and transportation

Borough of Highlands Business Improvement District
Highlands Business Partnership (HBP), Inc

HBP, Inc. is the Highlands Business Improvement District (BID) District Mansagement Corporation. The HBP is a welcoming community of businesses and professionals working together to grow our downtown and increase commerce. We are committed to delivering outstanding service to our members while we continue to make Highlands a great destination for dining, boating, retail, and unique services.

If you’re interested in starting a business in town, the HBP office is the perfect place to start. Our Board of Directors, Members and Volunteers are ready to assist you every step of the way. From networking in the business community to assisting in securing a retail space in our business district, we strive to move things along smoothly. We can also help steer you in the right direction for things like securing a Mercantile License, Certificate of Occupancy or getting your sign approved.

Who comprises the B.I.D?
Highlands Business Partnership, Inc. is a non-profit management corporation that oversees the Business Improvement Districts in Highlands. The Board of Directors consists of 17 members and a part time administrator who handles the daily functions of the corporation. All businesses are members of the Highlands Business Partnership (aka BID) and are welcomed to participate.

Destination Marketing and Tourism is the primary focus of the organization. Tens of thousands of dollars are contributed by the business tax base to fund one of the largest promotional efforts in the area. Major efforts and detail is taken in identifying strong market sectors and developing targeted campaigns that bring in thousands of visitors and potential new residents each year. You will enjoy major outdoor events like our St. patrick's Day Parade, Seaport Craft Show, Clam Fest, Farmer's Market and Oktoberfest as well as a variety of destination marketing programs.

General Meetings:
General meetings are held quarterly and are open to all Highlands businesses and commercial property owners. Call us at 732-291-4713 for meeting dates and locations or email us at to receive notifications.

HBP works with businesses in areas like:
• Promotion of all Highlands businesses through strategic marketing efforts
• Group media buys, inclusive advertising, press releases, Internet Marketing
• Extensive fundraising and grant applications
• Business recruitment and retention
• Event planning, promotion and management
• Barter and Sponsorship solicitation
• Representation of all Highlands businesses at many regional events
• Business District flowers, decorations and holiday activities
• Public area improvements
• Developing an Information/Visitor Guide including all businesses

HBP Events:
The Highlands Business Partnership hosts a spectacular annual event calendar drawing thousands of visitors to our downtown. All businesses are heavily promoted at each event by distributing visitor bags from the welcome tent with information, brochures, coupons, maps and menus from our local establishments. No outside food vendors are permitted to participate at the events. Click here for more information or to get involved.

Event Sponsorship:
Your business and company can be part of the Highlands success story! All sponsorship dollars and barter are tax deductible donations. Call or email to find out how.


Opening a Business in Highlands

Help is Around the Corner:
The Highlands Business Partnership and the Borough of Highlands want to make opening your business here as easy as possible. This fact sheet outlines the many steps to the process. With solid planning and communication, these are the things that can easily be incorporated into your plan.

Certificates of Occupancy (C.O.’s):
A Certificate of Occupancy is required at the time of change of occupancy of any property in the Borough of Highlands. The criteria for a CO are contained in Chapter 4-13 of the Highlands General Ordinances which can be viewed from the Borough's website, or by clicking here. All commercial units must be inspected between tenants. The Boca National Property Maintenance code of 1993 is the criteria used in these inspections. Click here to download the Certificate Of Occupancy Application.

Typically if you are changing the use of your property, you need a Zoning Permit which can be downloaded from the Borough Forms area on or by clicking here for the Borough Forms list. When in doubt, please call the Zoning Officer. One of the most frequently asked questions regarding both construction and zoning is whether or not a resident needs approval before beginning any type of construction. Whether a resident changes the use or makes an improvement to the property, chances are they will need a permit to legally begin construction.

Construction Code:
The Uniform Construction Code governs all of the construction and renovation of properties located in Highlands. Permits are required by the Borough of Highlands for any renovation of commercial buildings. Permit applications are available at the Borough Hall, 171 Bay Avenue. If you have any questions, contact our Construction Code office Monday through Friday. Click here for Borough Phone Directory.

Design Standards:
Built into our Zoning & Construction processes are Design Standards. If you plan on doing construction work of any kind in historic downtown areas, your plan will go in front of a committee for review. An explanation of Guidelines can be found at Borough Hall or can be downloaded by clicking here. Similarly, planned signs are reviewed by a separate committee to ensure all town signage conforms to the Borough Sign Ordinance (chapter 10-7) . This can be obtained from Borough Hall, or downloaded by clicking here.

Tax Abatement for Property Improvements:
Based on need, improvements to buildings and their facades may be eligible for special tax abatements for up to five years. Click here to see the Tax Abatement Ordinance or contact the Borough Hall Tax Assessor at 732-872-1224, Ext. 211.

Business Resource Library

Highlands Resources:
Municipal Contacts General and Land Use Ordinances
Municipal Forms & Applications Highlands Master Plan 2016 Reexamination PDF (7.4MB)
Tax Maps Recreation and Open Space Plan PDF (2.6MB)
Trash Collection and Zones Business District Design Manual PDF (6.6MB)

National Flood Insurance Program

Highlands Sign Regulations PDF (5.7MB)
Tax Abatement  

Building Resources:

Openings in Foundation Walls and Walls of Enclosures Below Elevated Buildings in Special Flood Hazard Areas in accordance with the National Flood Insurance Program PDF (5MB)

Floodproofing Non-Residential Buildings PDF (40MB)

NJ Business Resources:
Below is a list of helpful contacts that may need.

Start a Business in New Jersey

New Jersey Economic Development Authority(EDA)

NJ Small Business Development Center at Brookdale Community College (NJSBDC)

SCORE - Counselors to America's Small Business

US Small Business Administration

UCEDC a private, non-profit economic development lending corporation

Board of Health:
Monmouth County Regional Health Commission at 732-493-9520.

More useful links:

Federal Government
White House
House of Representatives
US Senate Home Page
US Census Bureau
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Gateway National Recreation Area

State Government
NJ Business Gateway Services
The State of New Jersey
Office of the Governor
New Jersey Elected Officials
New Jersey State Library
State of New Jersey New Jersey Turnpike Authority
New Jersey State Legislature
New Jersey Office of State Planning
Workforce New Jersey Public Information Network
Access DMV - Online Vehicle Registration
Adoption in New Jersey
New Jersey State Council on the Arts
Technology Business Incubators
Farmland Preservation
Now you can search for unclaimed property!
New Jersey Building Authority

Local Government
Monmouth County Website
Monmouth County Planning Board
Monmouth County Prosecutor
Monmouth County Library
Housing Sales

New Jersey Retail Merchants Association (NJRMA)
InJersey (Asbury Park Press)
New Jersey OnLine (NJ.COM)

ANJEC The New Jersey Association of Environmental Commissions

SID/BID Statute Brief

The content of this advisory is extracted from the NJ Department of Community Affairs, Business Improvement Information Guide, and from a synopsis of legal issues relating business/special Improvement districts legal brief prepared by Robert S. Goldsmith, the preeminent attorney on business/special improvement districts in New Jersey.

Highlands Business Partnership HBP operates as a 501 c 3, non-profit, District Management Corporation, created by Highlands Municipal Ordinance 0-99-06 (as amended) - Creating a Business Improvement District and Designating a District Management Corporation. Highlands Business Partnership (HBP) is an organization, management, and financing tool used by local commercial stakeholders and businesses to provide specialized services such as a sidewalk clean-up, physical improvements, security, special events, holiday lighting, area marketing and business promotion. The services are designed to compliment rather than replace municipal government services in order to implement a business revitalization plan.

A Business Improvement District or Special Improvement District (BID/SID) is similar to a water, sewer or fire district in which property owners pay an additional charge for specific services. Highland’s Business Improvement District (Highlands BID-HBP) is created under the authority of N.J.S.A. 40:56-65, et seq., (the BID/SID Act) and enacted by municipal ordinance. The law BID/SID Act permits property owners and businesses to organize and assess themselves to pay for the services that they determine they need. The assessments are collected by the local municipality and turned over to HBP. Operation of a BID/SID is governed by a non-profit District Management Corporation and the Board of Directors, elected annually by commercial stakeholders. The HBP Board of Directors’ are made up of commercial property owners, businesses, residents, and government officials. The District Management Corporation, HBP, makes all decisions relating to the operation of the Highlands BID including budgets, annual assessments, and management of the specialized services.

The District Management BID/SID Act provides statutory authority for municipalities to create tax supported Business Improvement Districts. HBP provides services to encourage and support retail/commercial economic activity. The District Management BID/SID Act is designed to provide municipalities with the ability to focus, elevate and manage services specifically designed to enhance the economic viability of Highlands’ business areas and downtown/waterfront. Each district throughout the state provides services that are unique and specific to that business district. Districts are managed utilizing cooperative retail/commercial management technologies similar to shopping malls. The purpose of the BID/SID Act is to promote economic growth and employment, encourage self-financed business districts, designate professional management, and to develop public-private partnerships that implement self-help programs consistent with local needs, goals and objectives. The BID/SID Act empowers a District Management Corporation (HBP) to provide up to twenty-four business management and economic development activities ranging from administering district affairs (adopt by-laws), purchase and manage property, to managing the provision of specific services and standards (design, promotions, marketing, rehabilitation, clean-up, security).

The primary advantages of a BID/SID (Highlands Business Partnership) are: 1) a legal authority designed to promote downtown business revitalization; 2) the capability of professional management of retail/commercial services that enhance business in the district, and 3) a dependable source of funding. A BID permits a municipality to employ the advantage of these retail/commercial cooperative

management technologies in partnership with the business community. Downtown managers coordinate and deliver services specially designed to enhance the business environment and strengthen a municipality’s economic capacity.

The content listed in this section of the advisory has been extracted from a legal brief prepared by Robert S. Goldsmith, the preeminent attorney on BID’s/SID’s in New Jersey, and summarized below.

Special improvement districts BID/SID are not public bodies. The New Jersey Supreme Court has stated BID’s/SID’s are an attempt to achieve privately what municipal government has struggled unsuccessfully to do alone.

Second Roc-Jersey Associates v. Town of Morristown, 158 N.J. 581 (1999). See also Gonzalez v. Borough of Freehold (A-3476-92T2, June 30, 1994). The district management incorporation is not a public body.

“Municipalities should be given the broadest possible discretion in establishing by local ordinance the self-help [SID/BID] programs most consistent with their local needs, goals and objectives.”
N.J.SA.A 40:56-65(b) (3). Fanelli v. City of Trenton, 135 N.J. 582,590 (1994)

SID’s/BID’s have been granted the statutory authority to publish a community paper, an advertising piece, a newspaper, a map, a directory or whatever other medium it may select. The New Jersey Legislature has granted to SID’s/BID’s “all powers necessary, but not limited to, the power to “[p]publicize the district and the businesses included within the district boundaries.” N.J.S.A. 40:56-83(b) (13).

Most activities of a SID/BID are not subject to the Local Public Contracts Law, N.J.S.A 40A:11-1et seq., except where “the municipality may, by ordinance, delegate to the district manager corporation the contracting of work to be done on any street or streets, or on other municipal property, included in the special improvement district.” In that event “the corporation shall be a ‘contracting unit’ within the meaning of the ‘Local Public Contracts Law.” Thus, in most areas the SID/BID is not subject to the Local Public Contracts Law, except where specifically provided in N.J.S.A. 40:56-86.

The Open Public Meetings Act presents a more difficult question. It applies to all meetings of “public bodies.” As noted, Gonzalez, supra, and Second Roc-Jersey, supra, established that SID’s/BID’s are not public bodies. However, case law also addresses the authority to spend public funds as a separate concern. See State Col. Locals v. State Col. Gov. BS, 226 N.J. Super 556, 559 (App. Div. 1988)

The enabling ordinance of the Highlands Business Partnership states the Management Corporation shall conduct its business in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Law. The Highlands Business Partnership By-Laws, adopted in July, 1999 states Article III, 3.05 Meetings: Notwithstanding any other provision of these bylaws all notices and other requirements of the New Jersey Open Public Meeting Act (Sunshine Law) shall be complied with to the extent such Act applies to the Corporation. Highlands Business Partnership (HBP) advertises the five regular Board of Directors’ Meetings in the Asbury Park Press. In addition, they are noticed on Special Meetings of the Board of Directors are not advertised, but noticed with the directors, according to HBP By-Laws Article III 3.05 Meetings.

However, formal compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act is not an appropriate requirement of SID’s/BID’s given the need for flexibility and the limited budgets available to SID’s/BID’s. Nonetheless, I Mr. Goldsmith have consistently recommended to SID’s/BID’s that they act in a manner consistent with the intent and the general requirements of the Open Public Meetings Act without necessarily being subject into the Open Public Meetings Act and all of its technical requirements.

The SID/BID assessment is an assessment and not a tax. “[t]”he special assessment is used to provide a combination of services and improvements are intended and designed to benefit particular properties and demonstrably enhance the value and/or the use or function of properties that are subject to the special assessment.” Second Roc-Jersey, supra, 158 N.J. at 595-596.

Maximum flexibility and independence should be given to governing bodies and corporations designated to manage SID’s/BID’s. There are significant and comprehensive statutory oversight provisions which provide significant safeguards to a municipality without over-regulating or micro- managing what should be policy decision left to the governing bodies of SID’s/BID’s.

The legislature has granted to municipalities the following authority:

  • The right to create or eliminate SID/BID N.J.S.A. 40:56-68
  • One member of the governing body shall serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the District Management Corporation N.J.S.A. 40:56-68
  • The municipality shall approve the budget of the District Management Corporation annually. N. J.S.A. 40:56-84
  • The municipality shall review an audit of books of the District Management Corporation, which shall be submitted annually. N. J. S.A. 40-56-88
  • The municipality shall review the annual report prepared for the municipality by the District Management Corporation. N.J.S.A. 40:56-89

The Legislative grant also includes, without limitation, the following grant of powers, necessary and requisite to effectuate the purpose of a SID/BID:

  • Adopt bylaws and rules, regulations and policies.
  • Employ such persons as may be required.
  • Apply for, accept and administer gifts, grants or donations of property or money.
  • Make and execute agreements as necessary or convenient.
  • Administer and manage its own funds and accounts.
  • Borrow money from private lenders and from governmental entities (See N.J.S.A. 40:56-83(a) (6).
  • Fund the improvement of the exterior appearance of properties in the district through grants or loans.
  • Fund the rehabilitation of properties in the district.
  • Accept, purchase, rehabilitate, sell, lease or manage property in the district.
  • Enforce any loan, grant, sale or lease.
  • Provide security, sanitation and other services supplemental to those provided by the municipality.
  • Undertake improvements designed to increase the safety or attractiveness of the district including but not limited to litter cleanup and patrol. Landscaping, parking areas, recreational areas, rest areas, recruit new businesses, organize special events, provide special parking arrangements, provide temporary decorative lighting N.J.S.A. 40-56-83(b)

Based on the Fanelli and Second Roc-Jersey decisions, it is clear that a SID/BID or a municipality, acting pursuant to the Special Improvement District legislation will be given the maximum flexibility and deference in effectuating the powers grant. Additionally, there have been no significant court opinions that diminish or question the 1994 and 1999 New Jersey Supreme Court decisions referenced and extracted from a legal brief prepared by Bob Robert Goldsmith. The contents of this advisory, is which is instructive on the law relating to Business Improvement Districts, and those Court decisions remain valid and binding today.

Highlands Business Partnership, the District Management Corporation for the Highlands Business Improvement District, professionally manages common services that support business. Businesses are interdependent and thrive when they are organized and working together. Managing common concerns of a business community is a foundation of business success. Highland’s business and resident volunteers work together with the governing body to implement new programs and promote improvements.