NJBIZ: Five Questions with 2021 NJBIZ Leader in Law, Dennis M. Toft

CSG’s Dennis M. Toft, Chair of the Environmental Group has been recognized in NJBIZ’s inaugural Leaders in Law program, which was created to honor legal professionals in various sectors and disciplines who bring an outstanding dedication to their occupation and their communities.

Recognized among New Jersey’s leading environmental attorneys, Dennis has developed a robust practice covering all aspects of environmental law to the great benefit of his clients and policymakers alike. He brings a unique perspective to his interactions with regulators and assists clients in securing permits and approvals others would consider nearly impossible to obtain.

Following his selection in the “Real Estate/Environmental” category by NJBIZ, we sat with Dennis for a broad-ranging discussion covering the many leadership roles he has held over the course of his nearly four decades with CSG and how they have informed his external-facing roles; his efforts supporting New Jersey’s real estate sector; and the evolution of his trusting relationships with the regulatory community since he began his career.

Q: In what ways have you seen your role as a “leader in law” evolve over the years?

A: Over the course of my four decades in practice, I have fostered excellent working relationships within the regulatory, legislative and governmental communities and have had the opportunity to help shape the development of environmental policies in ways I never would have expected at the outset of my career. These relationships are only forged with great reciprocal respect and, because of my hands-on experience and historical perspective, lawmakers have brought me into the fold as part of stakeholder groups to gauge where both existing and impending regulations can be improved.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your career?

A: It is incredibly rewarding to help my clients solve complex problems in a way that facilitates the continued remediation, redevelopment and, ultimately, beautification of our State’s most blighted and underserved communities while still being protective of the environment.

Q: What do you consider to be your greatest contribution to your company’s/client’s success?

A: In my nearly 40 years with CSG, I have been fortunate to serve on most of the firm’s policy-setting and decision-making committees, including the Executive, Management, Marketing, Technology and Pro Bono Committees. In this time, I have consistently shared my insight and vision in order to facilitate the firm’s successful transition into a second generation of leadership – something not many firms survive – and have otherwise played a central role in steering the CSG ship in a continuously progressive direction.

In my environmental practice, I take pride in my ability to provide my clients with equally steady-handed guidance and leadership by providing counsel that draws from my meaningful understanding of regulatory rules, policies and procedures.

Q: Describe a career challenge you overcame and the outcome

A: Each environmental project I have taken on presents its own unique set of challenges and requires a careful balancing act of a multitude of often-competing stakeholder demands and interests – including those of the client, the project’s host municipality and State and federal regulators – as well as a grasp of how to address issues holistically with an eye toward net-positive outcomes.

A particularly challenging assignment came in the form of a 140-acre brownfield site in Middlesex County that had once been the site of a munitions manufacturing plant. The plant exploded in the 1950s and had never been remediated. More than 40 acres of the contaminated area were wetlands. Working with our client, NJDEP and US EPA, we were able to secure approval for a remedial plan that took care of the munitions and other contamination, allowed for the filling of wetlands for purposes of the remediation and incorporated mitigation for the wetlands fill on the site. Three large warehouses are now on the property.

Q: What types of charities, community involvement, or pro bono work are you a part of?

A: I currently serve on the Executive Committee of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, where I share my insight into the environmental concerns affecting the State’s businesses. Additionally, as a former NAIOP-NJ board member, I was awarded with the organization’s Industry Service Award and earned a place among its Hall of Fame pursuant to my advocacy on behalf of New Jersey’s real estate development community. A Member of NJIT’s Board of Trustees, I was also recently tapped as co-chair of the university’s Presidential Search Committee.

Within the broader community, I serve on the board of the Nature Conservancy’s New Jersey Chapter and the Boy Scouts of America’s Patriot Path Council. As a Cubmaster and Boy Scout Leader, I have spent many summers leading scouts on treks, including two tours as a crew advisor to groups of scouts attending the Philmont High Adventure Ranch. My long-standing efforts in this respect were recognized with the Boy Scouts’ Distinguished Eagle Scout and Silver Beaver awards.

I have also recently taken on the role of Pro Bono Counsel to the Friends of the New Jersey School of Conservation in its efforts to maintain the historic institution.

To view the full 2021 NJBIZ Leaders in Law list, please click here.

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