TOMS RIVER – The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders recently accepted the recommendation of the Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Board to purchase two tracts of land along Bay Avenue in Stafford.
The first tract of land – block 222, lot 6 – is 7.2 acres, purchased for $76,000 plus up to $280 for property tax adjustments. The land, located on East Bay Avenue, is all wetlands, and is adjacent to 125 acres already owned by the county.
The other piece of land is 0.11 acres – block 158, lot 39 – the county purchased for $47,500.00 plus up to $542.00 for property tax adjustments.
This property is “an inholding within preserved county property and is completely comprised of wetlands,” according to government documents.
The county pays fair-market value for lands, and obtains permission from the township before making the purchase, since the land will then be taken off the local tax rolls.
The Natural Lands Trust program is dedicated to protecting open space in Ocean County. The fund was approved by Ocean County voters in 1997, and established a 1.2-cent tax to fund land acquisitions. The program generates about $8 million per year. A nine-member advisory committee, established in 1998, nominates properties for the Freeholders to consider. Freeholder director Gerry Little has said that in a county that’s 408,000 acres, about 60 percent of it is permanently protected against development through Pinelands, state parks and 21,000 acres preserved through the natural lands and farmlands programs.