Ocean County Buys Land For Preservation

Ocean County Buys Land
The Ocean County Freeholders met in its workshop room to discuss the coming agenda. The county is moving to buy 40 acres across Ocean County. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

OCEAN COUNTY – The Ocean County Freeholders want to purchase two tracts of land, about 40 acres total for $600,000, with the intention of keeping it free of development.

The first parcel is in Little Egg Harbor. It’s identified as Block 126, Lots 10, 11, and parts of 8.01. It will cost $440,000. There is a small portion of it that fronts onto Thomas Avenue, but most of it is in a wooded area.

One of the preserved tracts abuts Route 9 and the rail trail in Waretown. (Photo by Ocean County Planning Dept.)

This is a 37 acre plot of land that would have been 12 residential lots, officials said. It was at one point called Deerfield Estates. The owner would have wanted a larger development on the site. The owners originally wanted $2.2 million for it. However, after the housing market fell, and the fact that the property is not connected to township sewer lines, the number of homes possible shrank. So, it was up for sale again with a much lower price tag.

It is adjacent to land that has already been acquired by the county (that land that would have been called Oasis Estates).

The second parcel is in Waretown. It is identified as Block 48, Lots 1 and 2. It will cost $155,000. It is adjacent to the rail trail running through the county and the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. It is just 2.64 acres.

It fronts on Route 9, which makes it an unusual site for preservation. Most municipalities want commercial development on what few highways they have.

However, there are some wetlands spots in that area, so it might be difficult to develop, officials said.

The land would be purchased through money generated by the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund, Freeholder John Bartlett said. It is supported by a county-wide referendum years ago where people voted to pay 1.2 cents per $100 of their assessed valuation into a fund for such purchases.

The Little Egg purchase. (Photo by Ocean County Planning Dept.)

The property is appraised, and officials determine if it meets the criteria to be purchased, Bartlett said. Basically, the land has to be a good purchase that would be an environmental boon.

The local municipality also has to endorse the purchase, to make sure that the town wouldn’t rather have development there, he said. So, both townships still have to pass resolutions encouraging it before the purchases move forward.

Freeholder Director Joseph Vicari noted that approximately 60 percent of land in Ocean County is protected in some way from development. It ultimately saves the towns money because it reduces the need for municipal services, and puts fewer children in schools. It also helps preserve the Pinelands and the aquifer beneath it.

In related news, the freeholders re-appointed three people to the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee: Berkeley Councilman John Bacchione, Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-12) of Plumsted, and William Fox, former township clerk of Jackson.

For more on the latest county budget, click here.