County Eyes Land Purchase in Three Municipalities

The Ocean County Administration Building. (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

TOMS RIVER – The county plans to acquire more open space, this time in Ocean Gate Borough and Berkeley and Manchester townships.

The public hearing on these purchases is slated for 4 p.m. Feb. 6.

The county is looking to purchase 4.7 acres on Chelsea Avenue in Ocean Gate, at the mouth of Jeffries Creek that feeds into the Toms River. It features a beach, lagoon and bulkheading, which provides public access to the water. The land does have some structures on it that have fallen into disrepair, which the county would demolish. The property appraised at $1.6 million.

“This is our first open space acquisition in this small borough that borders Barnegat Bay and sits on the Toms River,” Freeholder Director Virginia E. Haines said. She’s the liaison to the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee. “This purchase will help us in our ongoing work to protect and preserve our waterways now and into the future.”

Ocean Gate has already adopted a resolution approving this purchase.

The advisory committee has already recommended the purchase of 5.68 acres in the Roosevelt City section of Manchester, appraised at $40,000. The scattered lots are near 1,700 acres called the Structural Management tract, purchased for preservation back in 2014.

“This acquisition will allow for the vacation of unimproved paper streets and enable better security and management of the existing natural lands property,” Haines said. “We estimate this natural-lands property will grow by about 100 acres if the streets are vacated.

“Buying these smaller lots that are near or adjacent to already preserved open space helps us with maintaining the property by creating one contiguous open space parcel,” Haines said.

The county also plans to purchase 19 individual properties in and around the Good Luck Point section Berkeley. They will acquire this land with the help of FEMA money totaling $4.2 million, and a DEP grant of $923,805. The county’s Natural Trust Fund will provide $416,994, or about eight percent of the cost.

“We are working in partnership with FEMA, the state DEP and Office of Emergency Management and Berkeley Township to acquire these properties which were impacted by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 resulting in the homes being demolished,” Haines said. “When we began to see an increase in the number of requests we were receiving for potential acquisitions in the area of Good Luck Point it was clear that there was a need for a larger acquisition project.”

About 20 landowners were contacted, and 10 offers have been accepted thus far, totaling $2.4 million.

“These properties expand on existing natural lands open space and provide additional public access to the waterfront,” Ocean County Freeholder Gary Quinn, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Planning Department, which oversees the county’s Natural Lands Trust Fund, said.

“This was one of the areas of our County devastated by Superstorm Sandy,” Haines said. “By acquiring these properties we are hopeful it helps the property owners who sustained a great loss. It also allows the township to receive additional points under the Community Rating System, which gives residents discounts on their flood insurance.

“By working together with the local, state and federal agencies, we are also preserving our shoreline and protecting it for the future,” Haines said.