BY VICTORIA HURLEY-SCHUBERT
MARLBORO – The Township Coun-cil has taken steps to preserve more land for open space and recreation by authorizing the purchase of development rights for a tract in the Morganville section of town.
The development rights for F&F properties on Pleasant Valley Road will be purchased at a maximum cost of $869,329 in order to keep the 79-acre site as open space. The property is worth an estimated $4.4 million on the open market, according to information presented at the May 17 council meeting.
“The state agricultural fund did not have enough money in the budget this year and the council agreed to an additional $79,000 toward the purchase, which would come out of the open space account,” Councilwoman Patti Morelli said in an e-mail statement after the meeting.
The debt was issued in anticipation of next year’s open space revenues and refunds from other land acquisitions from the state’s open space and farmland preservation funds.
Several months ago Marlboro officials purchased the 43-acre McCarron Farm with money from the open space account, Morelli said.
Marlboro is in the process of selling the development rights for the McCarron Farm to the state and county, which is approximately 80 percent of the farmland appraisal. This will be in the state’s 2007 budget, she said.
It is essential to make purchases this year because the state program that helps municipalities fund such acquisitions is not in next year’s state budget, Morelli said, adding that the Garden State Preservation Trust is nearly out of money.
Financing options for such land acquisitions vary depending upon the program. When a town preserves a property for open space, Green Acres partners 50 percent with the municipality. When a town purchases farmland the state and county partner and the municipality only pays 17 to 20 percent of the purchase costs.
“Do you know how hard it would be [to make open space purchases] if we had to do it on our own?” Morelli said.
Marlboro takes in about $600,000 per year from a local open space tax assessment of 2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, according to township officials.
For example, the owner of a home that is assessed at $200,000 pays $40 into Marlboro’s open space fund each year, while the owner of a home that is assessed at $500,000 pays $100 into the open space fund each year.
Municipal officials use the funds that are collected by the special assessment to help purchase and preserve open sapce tracts.