BERKELEY – An open space north of Mastapeter Funeral Home will likely remain that way – open space – as the township and county work to preserve it.
This is the small lot adjacent to the funeral home that has the white fence in front of it. Although it might not look like much, it’s approximately 2.5 acres. A photo from the 1930s on display in town hall shows that the land used to house Scherrer’s Gas Station. Later, it was Mother Earth’s Garden Center.
“He’s been approached by developers and he came to me to sell it,” Mayor Carmen Amato said of the owner.
This made him recall another time that the family sold land on Amherst Avenue to the township as well. “They could have made a lot of money selling it to a developer, and they sold it to us and we made it Mastapeter Park,” he said.
The Township Council asked the county to buy the land. The Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund brings in more than $10 million in funding every year based on a 1.2 cent tax on every property in the county – both residential and commercial.
Berkeley has its own open space fund. Many towns find that they don’t have the buying power to make large purchases, so they ask the county to do it instead. Often, towns will wind up borrowing money to buy land and then use the open space tax to pay off the principal and interest over a number of years.
The county, on the other hand, has the buying power to make the purchase all at once. The county requires the town’s governing body to pass a resolution stating that they approve of the sale. This is done because it will take the land off the town’s tax rolls, so the county wants to make sure that the governing body is on board. Officials generally say that preventing land from becoming a housing development saves money down the line, as taxes get raised for services and schooling.
Open Space Inventory
In the last year or so, there were several other properties that were either purchased or in the process to becoming open space.
For example, there are a dozen or so properties in Good Luck Point that were destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. They have been turned back into open space because they are considered “repetitive losses.” They will always be in danger of flooding.
Mark Villinger, supervising planner for the county, gave an update on other projects.
Another Route 9 property is south of Yesterday’s in Bayville. On a tax map, this would be referred to as Block 1014, Lots 21 & 22.
Currently, the land has no buildings on it. It is just wooded area. Back in October, the Berkeley Township Council voted to support its preservation as open space. Villinger said this is still under review.
Victorian Development was purchased on December 1, 2022, Villinger said.
The town passed a resolution supporting that the county buy this property for $1,870,000. It could potentially have had more than 35 homes on the 10.3 acres.
There are a number of small lots that are an “active project area” around the Mill Creek headwaters, he said. These are properties that they want to preserve because they feed directly into the water. For example, they county is under contract for a .52-acre spot for $50,000. This is near the former pulverizing property where the county bought about 800 acres a few years back.
Another portion of land, referred to as the Nicol and Leone properties in Bayville, located at Block 1014, Lots 15, 27, and 28, are under active review.