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Thread: New Jersey running out of Open Space

  1. #61


    Exactly. Because you know, it makes much more sense to saturate the area with yet ANOTHER shopping center, then, when the population increases, use eminent domain to acquire someone's land for preserved open space use, as with Cornell Farms. Sorry if I didn't link this right. I'll try again later.

  2. #62
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    Thumbs up Trying To Get Something Going

    NJ lawmakers open debate on newest open space proposal

    By Ryan Hutchins/The Star-Ledger
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    on March 17, 2014 at 4:24 PM, updated March 17, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    A view of a hay farm in Harding Township.
    Star-Ledger file photo

    TRENTON — Seeking to end a legislative stalemate over open space preservation, state lawmakers today began to debate a new proposal that would divert about $150 million a year in business taxes to protect land and historic sites in New Jersey.

    With bipartisan support, the Senate Environmental committee voted to advance the measure (SCR84), although it was made clear the legislation could be amended to satisfy concerns from activists and other legislators.

    “Everybody understands we may need to make some changes,” state Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex, the committee chairman who is a sponsor of the measure, said at a Statehouse hearing today. “It’s a first step.”

    The resolution, also sponsored by Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerset), would ask voters to amend the state constitution to dedicate 6 percent of corporate business tax revenue for open space over the next 30 years. That would initially produce about $150 million in annual revenue.

    Four percent of the business tax — about $100 million a year — is already dedicated for various environmental programs, including hazardous waste cleanups, ungrounded storage tank removal, water quality programs, reducing emissions from diesel-powered engines and park development.

    Smith said several of the programs had been so successful they are no longer required, and that he understood Gov. Chris Christie’s administration had been using some of the money earmarked for a “watershed” program to pay the salaries of employees at the Department of Environmental Protection.

    “That should be money that’s funded through the regular budgetary process,” he said.

    The referendum would also ask voters to dedicate money awarded in environmental lawsuits and fines from environmental violations to finance the removal of underground storage tanks and cleanups at polluted sites, averting some of the other losses.

    To place the question on the ballot this November, both houses of the Legislature must pass the resolution by a three-fifths majority.

    The new proposals comes after the Legislature repeatedly failed last year to agree on a way to finance open space preservation, with each chamber moving in different directions.

    A measure that asked voters to dedicate up to $200 million a year in sales tax revenue for open space over 30 years passed the Senate but died in the Assembly amid concerns about the huge price tag.

    Conversely, a measure that would have asked voters to approve a one-time bond sale to generate $200 million for open space passed the Assembly but died in the Senate on the ground that it was not a long-term solution.

    Tom Hester, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), said Democrats would take a look at the new proposal.

    “Assembly leadership will review the bill, but at this moment no action is planned and the Assembly stands behind the $200 million bond referendum proposal it approved last session,” Hester said.

    There were questions today about the expense of the new proposal, which would most likely cost billions of dollars over three decades.

    “I’m not going to be able to support this particular bill because, as I look at it, it doesn’t create any new revenue,” Sen. Sam Thompson (R-Middlesex) told the committee. “Essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul. Thus it will create problems in areas that are currently being funded, that we have to find ways to fund them.”

    But in a sign the new proposal may be the compromise lawmakers have been looking for, several leading environmentalists said they would support the legislation if adjustments were made. The Sierra Club, which fought Smith’s sales tax proposal last year out of concern that it would have led to cuts in other environmental programs, said it supported the new proposal.

    “I think, with this bill, we are on the way to something else,” Jeff Tittel, the Sierra Club’s state director, said at the hearing today. “Is it perfect? No. Will it solve all our problems? No. But it’s a good place to start from.”

  3. #63
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    Exclamation Christie Is A Nightmare For the Enviornment

    Christie looks to undermine Highlands Act: Editorial

    By Star-Ledger Editorial Board
    on March 20, 2014 at 9:00 AM, updated March 20, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    View of Round Valley reservoir in Clinton Township, within the Highlands tract. (STEVE KLAVER / STAR-LEDGER)

    At the time the Highlands Act was approved in 2004, bulldozers were knocking down forests at a raging clip in the region, equal to about 11 football fields a day. That reckless development was endangering the pristine aquifers in the region, which supply drinking water to about half the state.

    Now that act is facing its moment of truth. Gov. Chris Christie is openly hostile to the law, but because he knows the Democratic-led Legislature would never repeal it, he has chosen to sabotage its work. He has packed the Highlands Council with conservatives who are openly hostile to the law, an act of breathtaking cynicism. And while the council is supposed to be independent, he strong-armed its weak members into firing the former executive director, Eileen Swan, because she was doing her job effectively.

    Now the council is rewriting its master plan. And that presents a danger. Because if the new council lowers the environmental standards, as seems likely, the governor’s sabotage will have been successful.

    The Highlands Act establishes strict rules on development in the region. And while that is in the state’s collective interest, it does create winners and losers. If a 100-acre farm can no longer be subdivided and sold to builders, it’s worth less than it was. The council meetings often devolve into arguments over compensation.

    Some of the claims have been wildly exaggerated, but there’s no doubt that some landowners should be compensated. Basic fairness demands that, and the failure to do so fuels the opposition to this act.

    Here again, though, the governor has failed the Highlands. The Green Acres and farmland preservation programs are key vehicles to compensate landowners, but the funds have run dry and the governor has proposed no fix.The best solution would be to impose a small fee on water from the Highlands, and use that money to compensate landowners by purchasing more open space. Many environmental groups favor the idea, but the governor is again AWOL.

    The Highlands Act was a rare feat of legislative foresight. Undoing its environmental protections now would trade short-term relief for long-term risks.

    Our hope is that the council keeps in place the tough protections of the water supply. And with that affirmed, it should move on to press for better compensation.

  4. #64
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    Thumbs up 62 Acres to the GARDEN State.

    New Jersey dedicates 62-acre Hamilton plot as preserved farmland

    By Mike Davis | Times of Trenton
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    on July 29, 2014 at 9:40 PM

    The New Jersey State Agricultural Development Committee and Mercer County last month dedicated a 62-acre plot on Crosswicks-Hamilton Square Road as preserved farmland, removing any future development for the site beyond agricultural or light recreational uses. (Google Street View)

    HAMILTON — Where the Black family once imagined a solar farm, they may have to settle for a simple agricultural one.

    The New Jersey State Agricultural Development Committee and Mercer County last month dedicated a 62-acre plot on Crosswicks-Hamilton Square Road as preserved farmland, removing any future development for the site beyond agricultural or light recreational uses.

    “The landowner continues to own the property, but the development potential has been stripped out,” said Brian Smith, an attorney with the State Agricultural Development Committee.

    In 2011, property owner Barry Black and his son of the same name, doing business as BKB Properties, proposed turning the site into the township’s third solar farm, with thousands of solar panels that would produce about $70,000 in tax revenue and 10 megawatts into the local power grid.

    After six hearings, the zoning board rejected the proposal in May 2012 amid concerns from residents that the solar farm would ruin quality of life in the area, especially considering the trees that would be removed in order to provide ample sunlight to the panels.

    “Of all the open space in all of Hamilton Township, why did you choose the one space that’s zoned (rural),” zoning board vice chairman Anthony Celentano said at the time.

    Smith said the preservation dedication permits agricultural uses as well as “passive” recreational activity, including cross-country skiing, hiking or fishing.

    Intense recreation, such as the creation of ballfields or golf courses, is specifically excluded
    , Smith said.

    If the property owners don’t wish to farm the property, they can lease its operation to other farmers.

  5. #65
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    Thumbs up Keep The Garden in The Garden State!

    For open space funding, Sen. President Sweeney and N.J. officials urge Assembly vote

    By Michelle Caffrey | South Jersey Times
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    on July 30, 2014 at 6:00 AM, updated July 30, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    Senate President Stephen Sweeney, right, listens to South Jersey Land and Water Trust President Suzanne McCarthy speak about the recent preservation of this 83-acre farm on Russell Mill Road in Woolwich Township that was slated to become a housing development, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (Staff Photo by Lori M. Nichols/South Jersey Times)

    Standing before 82 acres of recently preserved farmland in Woolwich Township, local officials had one message to the state Assembly — keep the "garden" in Garden State.

    The land along Russell Mill road was slated to be the site of 31 new homes, but was preserved through a combination of township, county and state funding.

    The state funding that made the preservation possible has run dry, however, and officials said that if the state Assembly doesn't pass legislation to allow voters to weigh-in on a new funding mechanism in November, the farms that earned the state its nickname and fuel a large part of the state's economy, may vanish.

    "We face a growing population and a shrinking land base," said Rob Hurff, president of the Gloucester County Board of Agriculture. "That's why it's so important. In the future, we're going to need land to farm, and farms feed people. Farms are food."

    The state Senate has already approved legislation — in a bi-partisan vote of 36-to-1 last month — to ask voters whether or not they want to implement a sustainable funding program that would reallocate 4 percent of corporate business tax revenues to farmland preservation. The legislation would amend the state constitution to establish the new funding mechanism, and voters would be asked to ratify the amendment.

    The 4 percent of business tax revenues total around $100 million annually and are already dedicated to environmental programs. Officials urging passage of the constitutional amendment said directing those funds to farmland preservation would provide state funding that's crucial to help local municipalities and counties invest in farmland preservation. More than half of the $1.46 million price tag on the 83-acre Woolwich farm, currently owned by developer Vince DeLuca of DeLuca Lot Investors, was provided by state farmland preservation funds.

    The deadline to get the constitutional amendment on the ballot is quickly approaching. If the Assembly doesn't vote by Aug. 4, there's no hope for renewed funding, and townships like Woolwich — named one of the fastest growing communities on the East Coast in recent years — will be left scrambling to prevent rapidly expanding home development.

    "If the New Jersey Assembly doesn't act quickly and adopt SCR-84, important projects here and across this great state will come to a grinding halt, because big land deals simply cannot happen without state funding support, period," said Woolwich Mayor Sam Maccarone, adding a project to preserve another 60 acres in the township has gained all necessary approvals, but is now in jeopardy due to the state's inability to meet its cost-share.

    And it's not just South Jersey's sprawling farmlands that are at risk, said State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3 of West Deptford).

    "This dire scenario is playing out in every county throughout New Jersey," he said, adding later the farm behind him was "a hell of a lot better than 31 homes."

    It's an "incredibly dire" situation, said Tom Gilbert, president of Keep it Green NJ, a campaign to preserve the state's parks, natural areas, clean water, farmland and historic treasures.

    He pointed to state Department of Agriculture statistics that show in order to sustain the current agricultural production rates that make farming the third largest industry in the state, more than 400,000 acres of farmland must be preserved.

    Statistics also show that state preservation programs have significant return on investment, with every $1 spent on preservation returning $10 in economic value, including goods and services, water filtration, flood control, and support of the agriculture and tourism industries that play a vital role in the state's economy.

    Not only does it help curb expansive home development projects, said Freeholder Director Robert Damminger, it helps local municipalities slow property tax growth by preventing further strain on township services, increases in school taxes due to increased populations and maintaining quality of life.

    "It's time for the Assembly to put up or shut up," said Damminger.

    If put on November's ballot, it's likely voters would approve the long-term funding amendment with a significant majority. Gilbert said a non-partisan poll surveying 600 likely voters showed 76 percent supported the legislation, including 85 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of other affiliations.

    He's also encouraged by news he got on Tuesday that the Assembly may convene on Thursday, giving them a final shot at approving the legislation.

    "They have one last opportunity," said Gilbert. "We're here to urge them to take that opportunity and make sure that New Jersey's bi-partisan legacy of preservation doesn't come to an end."

    Woolwich resident Jim Valentine said he lives just down the road, and had no idea 31 homes were approved for the nearby farmland until he stopped by Tuesday's press conference. He's glad to hear of the push to continue to preserve farmland, for one simple reason, he said.

    "Once it's gone, it's gone."

    Editor's note: This article was updated to clarify that the legislation, SCR84, would amend the state constitution to establish the new funding mechanism, and voters would be asked to ratify the amendment.

    Michelle Caffrey may be reached at

  6. #66
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    Thumbs up Open Space Funding Bill Passes!

    Election Day 2014: Voters pass N.J. open space amendment

    By S.P. Sullivan | NJ Advance Media for
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    on November 04, 2014 at 10:03 PM, updated November 04, 2014 at 10:38 PM

    New Jersey voters on Tuesday weighed in on a constitutional amendment that would dedicate funding toward open space acquisition. (S.P. Sullivan | NJ Advance Media)

    WOODBRIDGE — New Jersey voters on Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment that would dedicate money from a business tax toward open space preservation.

    Question 2's passage was hailed by a coalition of more than 180 environmental groups, known as NJ Keep It Green, who raised more than $500,000 in a campaign blitz to drum up public support.

    "It means the program can continue, and continue to protect fields and parks and water supplies well into the future," said Jeff Tittel, head of New Jersey Sierra Club, which supported the amendment.

    The measure creates a permanent funding source for the state to buy and preserve open space. The money comes from the state’s corporate business tax, moving the 4 percent that’s already allocated for broader environmental programs toward the preservation of open space, and bumping that dedication up to 6 percent by 2019.

    It was opposed by Gov. Chris Christie and the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, who argued that a constitutional amendment was the wrong way to allocate open space funds.

    State Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), one of the sponsors of the bill that put the question on the ballot, said the measure was the only way legislators could fund the popular open space program after previous attempts had been blocked by Christie and his allies in the Legislature.

    “The voters understand that open space preservation, farmland preservation and historic preservation are absolutely essential to the future of this state," Smith said.

    The amendment also saw opposition from a contingent of environmentalists concerned about its impact on programs that were previously funded by the corporate business tax, including toxic site remediation, water quality monitoring and even some salaries at the state Department of Environmental Protection.

    "We have a difficult fight ahead to ensure that environmental programs are not cut or weakened, and current parks and historic sites are not left neglected while these land trusts rush off to buy new farmland and open space," said Scott Olson, an environmental advocate and open space supporter who publicly opposed Question 2.

    Tuesday saw the 14th open space ballot initiative approved by New Jersey voters since the 1960s.

  7. #67
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    Thumbs up Continues to Preserve More Open Space

    Christie OKs bill to help Highlands landowners who've seen property values plummet

    By Louis C. Hochman | NJ Advance Media for
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    on February 06, 2015 at 12:58 PM

    In 2009, al Danielson walks on the 12 acres of farm land in Hunterdon County that has been in his family for generations. He had planned to sell the land for home development but couldn't because of the environmental restrictions put in place by the 2004 Highlands Act. (ROBERT SCIARRINO THE STAR-LEDGER)

    TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie has signed a bill meant to further compensate property owners who've seen their property values drop under the state's Highlands Region environmental protections.

    The bill passed both houses of the legislature in December, and Christie signed it Thursday.

    New Jersey already had in place a special appraisal process for the property owners, but it expired in 2014. Under the bill, that process is extended through 2019.

    It entitles owners to two appraisals -- one based on the present-day value and one based on the value predating the 2004 Highlands Act, which restricts development throughout much of northern New Jersey in the interest of protecting drinking water resources.

    Those restrictions slowed sprawl but caused property values to plummet. Under the special appraisal system, owners could sell their land for preservation at whichever appraisal returns a higher value.

    Len Melisurgo | NJ Advance Media for

    In December, bill sponsor State Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex) called dual-appraisal system one of the "key ingredients in making our open space program viable."

    The Highlands Act covers 88 towns in seven northern New Jersey Counties, and has halted large-scale developments planned in dozens of towns. Proponents site it for protecting the quality of the state's drinking water and reducing flood damage, but opponents say it amounts to government overreach and has unfairly stripped properties of their value.

    "We are glad the governor signed this legislation because it will help encourage land preservation in the Highlands," the New Jersey Sierra Club wrote in a statement Thursday supporting the legislation. But the group, a frequent critic of the Christie administration, also said the governor must do more: "The governor needs to support funding to preserve land in Highlands and stop trying to weaken Highlands protections."

    "The best way to preserve land is to buy it, but we need more money than the current program to buy this land," the Sierra Club continued. "We should have a program dedicated just to preserve land in the Highlands, like a water fee, since we will need more money for land preservation."

    In December, David Pringle, campaign director of the Clean Water Action, said the program should have been allowed to expire -- saying it weakens the Highlands Act and reduces funding available for conservation. He argued landowners could no more expect a future rate of return on their properties than stockholders.

    "We could live with this for 5 years, but now it's 15 years and that's too much," Pringle said at the time.

    Louis C. Hochman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @LouisCHochman. Find on Facebook.

  8. #68
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    Thumbs up Monmouth County Purchases 90 acres for County Park; No Thanks to PANYNJ

    Monmouth officials authorize $10M for new park, then blast Port Authority

    By Rob Spahr | NJ Advance Media for
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    on March 03, 2015 at 7:52 AM

    The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders has authorized spending $10.6 million to acquire a 87.8-acre parcel, which sits between New Brunswick (CR 516) and Wilson avenues in Aberdeen and Marlboro townships. (Google Maps)
    Rob Spahr | NJ Advance Media for

    ABERDEEN - The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders has authorized spending $10.6 million to acquire nearly 90 acres of land in the Freneau section of the township for a new county park.

    The authorization did not come without some controversy, however.

    In August, the Freeholders authorized spending $5.6 million towards the acquisition of the 87.8-acre parcel, which sits between New Brunswick (CR 516) and Wilson avenues in Aberdeen and Marlboro townships.

    At that time, the Freeholders believed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was committed to fund the balance of the negotiated $10.6 million purchase price.

    When the Port Authority's alleged commitment never materialized, the Freeholders increased the county's share of the purchase price by $2 million in December and then ultimately another $3 million last week to cover the entire cost.

    Freehold Director Gary J. Rich said "time is of the essence" because the property's owners - Aberdeen/Wilson Associates, LLC. - intend sell the entire 87.8 acres by the spring.

    Monmouth County will use funding from its Open Space, Recreation, Floodplain Protections, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund to finance the entire purchase, Freeholder Lillian G. Burry said.

    "The Port Authority appears to be unwilling to honor its commitment of sharing to fund a project that will preserve significant portions of the Matawan Creek watershed and eventually provide a 250-acre park," Burry, liaison to the County Park System, said in a release. "The Port Authority's offer to help move this deal forward appears to have been withdrawn."

    The new park would encompass hardwood uplands, open recreational areas and headwater lowland areas with significant storm water storage capacity, she added.

    Freeholder Deputy Director Serena DiMaso said the Freeholders were "extremely disappointed" that the anticipated funding from the Port Authority Hudson Raritan Estuary Resources Program to help acquire the property might not be made available. The Board also adopted a resolution requesting that the Port Authority to "uphold their agreement to provide funding" for the acquisition.

    "We have modified the County's cost-share twice to accommodate a change of heart on the part of the Port Authority," DiMaso said in a release. "We continue to ask the question, where is the funding?"

    State Senator Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) praised the Freeholder, Aberdeen officials, NY/NJ Baykeeper and the Monmouth Conservation Foundation last week for the "tremendous job" they did to create the park, which he said was "several years in the making due to unthinkable complications."

    "They've set an example for the rest of New Jersey and its local governments by finding a creative open space solution that will benefit generations to come," Kyrillos said in a release. "The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, on the other hand, has once again demonstrated government at its worst and proved to be an untrustworthy public entity by reneging on its years-long obligation to fund about half of this project. The Port Authority further lost the public's trust by failing to hold up their end in a compromise with the freeholders that would have allowed the agency to reduce its cost share by $2 million to fulfill its obligation."

    On Monday afternoon, the Port Authority referred to a Sept. 2 letter Port Authority Chairman John J. Degnan sent to Kyrillos as its comment on the issue.

    In the letter, Degnan said that he understood and sympathized with the legislator's frustration but that it was based on facts predicated the "erroneous perception" that the Port Authority made a commitment to allocate $5 million to be used toward the purchase of the property.

    "The Port Authority Board has never been asked to approve such an expenditure," Degnan wrote. "Second, the unfortunate fact is that there are not sufficient, uncommitted funds from the original authorization of resources for this program to fully provide the $5 million request unless the Board were to redirect committed, but as of yet unexpended, funds from other worthy grants, a request which I could not support."

    Even if the funding were to be allocated, Degnan said that pursuant to the Port Authority's Capital Plan it would not be available for several years which would not meet Monmouth County's short-term need to close the acquisition of the property.

    "The only 'commitment' you have pointed out to me, or that I have otherwise been able to find, is a conversation you had with a former employee of the Port Authority who would not have had the authority to bind the Board," he wrote to Kyrillos. "In any event, I regret that there is nothing I can do now in light of the current unavailability of sufficient funds to meet the $5 million amount requested. I believe we have tried to make our position clear on this matter to you, the New York/New Jersey Baykeeper and local representatives."

    If the Port Authority were to decide to commit funding assistance to the project, any funding received would be used to reimburse the county, according to a resolution the Board of Freeholders passed last week.

    "In an area that is already heavily developed and is home to many commuters, a new park would go a long way to help to meet the recreation and open space needs of our citizens," Freeholder John P. Curley said in a release. "This Board will hold the Port Authority to their promise to help provide this new regional park."

    Rob Spahr may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TheRobSpahr. Find on Facebook.

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