BERKELEY – The township and the county partnered to buy – and forever preserve – a tract of land that was once sited for a housing development.
The fact that the property is on Route 9, a busy thoroughfare, is unusual for open space preservation. However, it is adjacent to other preserved land, and has wetlands within it, which makes it a more likely purchase.
The property, south of John F. Kennedy Boulevard and somewhat across from Cosmo’s auto wreckers, was purchased for $1.1 million.
The county provided $422,500, Freeholder John Bartlett said. The money is coming from the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund. It is supported by a county-wide referendum years ago where people voted to pay 1.2 cents per $100 of their assessed valuation into a fund for such purchases.
The township is paying the remainder, which takes care of legal bills in addition to the purchase price, certified financial officer Fred Ebenau said. If the paperwork costs come in at less, then the additional spending will be cancelled.
The township’s portion of the money to pay for this is coming from Berkeley’s open space fund, which comes from an additional tax that voters signed up for years ago. It provides 1 cent per $100 of assessed valuation from all property and puts it into a fund. By state law, that fund can also pay for upkeep of existing open space, such as parks.
Berkeley will bond for the purchase, and pay off the debt service with the open space fund, Ebenau said. The township could pay for the entire purchase with the money in the fund, but that would limit the parks’ funding. Additionally, interest rates are low right now so the township is taking advantage of that.
The town introduced a bond appropriating $550,000, and authorizing the issuance of $522,500 bonds and notes.
The area was to be the site of a large apartment complex, to be built by Rinderer Builders, Mayor Carmen Amato said. The town didn’t want that large complex, because it would dump a lot more traffic onto an already congested road. The issue went to the courts, and Berkeley was ultimately successful. Now, they’re getting it off the table and preserving it for future generations.
“Berkeley was very interested in this site,” Bartlett said. “When they offered to pay half of it, that was very attractive.”
The property is about 13 acres. However, there are some wetlands on the land that would make development a little more difficult.
The property is adjacent to the Florence T. Allen Conservation Area, which encompasses 45 acres of wetlands around Mill Creek.
The Mill Creek, which is sometimes just a trickle, winds through Bayville. It also leads into the New Jersey Pulverizing Company property. This is a 775-acre tract of land in Bayville that the county also just purchased to keep as open space. Therefore, most, if not all, of the land in the Mill Creek stream corridor is public land that won’t be developed on, Bartlett said.