Township Hopes To Save Pierce Farm Property From Development

(Photo courtesy Christie’s Realty)

HOWELL – A special hearing on whether the township should buy a 123-acre former farm site was met with favorable comments.

The hearing was part of the Green Acres process, a state agency which oversees grants used for land preservation.

Town Council held a special hearing on February 7 to discuss interest in purchasing Pierce Farm, a 123-acre property located along Maxim Road. While there is no set plan on how the land would be used, the consensus from citizens and councilmembers is to save the land from future development.

Officials set up materials for a public hearing on whether Howell should buy the Pierce Farm property. (Photo by Sara Grillo)

Maser Consulting, a local engineering firm, is working with the township to submit a grant application through the state’s Green Acres Program to acquire Pierce Farm. Since Howell already has an Open Space Recreation Plan and an Open Space Tax Program in place, it is eligible for a 50 percent matching grant and a 50 percent low interest loan.

Kelsey Howard from Maser Consulting said the acquisition would protect one of Howell Township’s remaining rural areas from suburban sprawl, preserve natural resources and provide recreation opportunities for residents.

Many citizens present during the hearing urged councilmembers to move forward with the grant. Supporters included current and former members of the Howell Environmental Commission. The Howell Lake Restoration & Wildlife Management committee and Howell Green Team also sent letters of support to the council.

“If we want to ensure the protection of that property, the only way it can be done is to acquire it.” said Don Smith, former chairman of the Environmental Commission.

Elizabeth Naskiewicz, a member of the Lake Restoration & Wildlife Management committee, has been involved with open space projects in Howell for over 30 years. She has walked through the Pierce Farm property and said the parcels being sold are intersected by Squankum Brook, a major watershed for the town. She stressed that the surface waters and wildlife that depend on them should be preserved and kept away from zoning.

Councilmembers unanimously expressed their desire to move forward with the grant, in hopes that the land will be preserved or used for recreational purposes.

“That’s the reason why I would support this,” said Councilwoman Evelyn O’Donnell, “Not so that something could be built, but so that something could not be built.”

The township is still in the early stages of applying for the Green Acres grant. Howard advised that the approval process includes site inspections, multiple appraisals and price negotiations with the seller, which could take six to eight months to complete.

Even though the Pierce Farms property is listed commercially at $1.2 million, that may not be the ending price tag. If the purchase falls through, the grant funds can be used to acquire another property listed in the Open Space Recreation Plan.

According to Deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro, Howell Township has accumulated over 1,000 acres of farmland and recreational areas to the tune of 19 million dollars, including a piece of property in 2006 that has since been developed into soccer and softball fields.

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Sara Grillo served as the Assistant News Editor/Writer at Micromedia Publications in 2017. She has lived in numerous areas within Monmouth and Ocean Counties for the past 9 years. Grillo studied Journalism and Communication Arts at Ramapo College and has held positions in Marketing, Public Relations and Sales prior to writing for Micromedia. She left in October of 2017 to pursue creative writing.