BRICK – The preservation of the Breton Woods property as open space is a done deal since the governing body passed a $1.8 million bond ordinance, on its final reading, to finance the township’s portion of the 31.6 acre site.
The site was owned by Visitation Roman Catholic Church and the diocese of Trenton and was under contract with Texas-based builder D.R Horton, who planned to build a housing development there.
Large crowds of residents – who opposed the plan and wanted to keep the parcel as open space – attended multiple Planning Board hearings.
In January, an $8.55 million deal was struck between the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee, the township and the contract purchaser D.R. Horton whereby Ocean County would pay $6.84 million and Brick Township would pay $1.71 million for the property.
The Ocean County Board of Commissioners approved their portion of the sale earlier this month.
The township administration has applied for and expects to receive a $1.2 million grant from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program, but is required by state ordinance to cover the cost of the acquisition before the grant is awarded.
20 percent of the land, or about 6.3 acres, will be developed by the township into a park with a playground, driveways and a parking lot to be located behind the Osbornville Elementary School. The remaining 80 percent, or about 25.3 acres, is being acquired by the county for open space preservation, recreation and conservation purposes.
“This is the exciting one that a lot of people are excited about, as are we,” said Mayor Lisa Crate during the February 28 Council Meeting.
The mayor said the township and the county would now be protecting the property from a proposed 59-home subdivision in perpetuity.
“It will remain open space, which greatly benefits all the residents of Brick,” she said. “We are looking forward to working with the Trust for Public Lands on the six acres the township is carving out of this project to allow for a small playground and better access to the Osbornville School.”
During public comment, resident Cheryl Olson said she had attended all the Planning Board hearings.
“I’m so glad we’re almost done,” she said. “Thank you Council for stepping up and lobbying to acquire this land.”
Founder of Save Barnegat Bay Willie deCamp attended the council meeting to thank the governing body.
“It’s really helpful to the environment for many reasons, including the water quality of Barnegat Bay,” he said. “There are many neighborhoods very, very grateful for this.”
Not everyone at the meeting praised the Council for the purchase. Resident Vic Finelli said he calculated the tax revenue that would have been generated by the 59 homes that were proposed for the site.
He estimated that the three- and four-bedroom homes would have each paid about $10,000 a year in property taxes, he said, or about $590,000 a year in lost tax revenue. If taxes increase the way they have over the past 25 years, the township is looking at millions in lost property tax revenue, he said.
“If you were a publicly-traded corporation, the stockholders would be looking to rip your head off,” Finelli said.
Advocates of open space often note that preventing homes saves money in the long run since the children in those homes would increase school taxes.