BARNEGAT – Officials said they are nearing an agreement on what to do with 21 acres on Barnegat Boulevard known as Barnegat Glen.
At one time, the owner had proposed residential development. Now, the county is looking to purchase it for open space. However, the governing body had agreed to meet with the owner first before giving the county its approval.
Open space advocates want it purchased by the county so it can forever be preserved. Several members of the township’s Open Space Advisory Committee came to the March Township Committee meeting to petition the governing body to allow the county to purchase it.
Dave Moore, an environmental commission and open space committee member, said he did not want to see homes on that property. The property has steep slopes that drain into ponds and eventually into the Barnegat Bay.
“Tax revenue is temporary,” he warned. After houses are built, there will be more need for schools and services. Houses don’t equal less taxes. “If it did, for all the houses they built, you’d think they’d be sending us money.”
The Open Space Advisory Committee hasn’t met in years, he said, adding that the town never told the committee that an offer had been made by the county to purchase this property.
The county Natural Lands Trust Fund is separate from the open space tax that the township would use to acquire and care for open space. The county has its own committee for these decisions.
Another member of the Barnegat Open Space Committee, Jake Taylor, said he was on the Township Committee when the township bought land from the property owner to build Barnegat Boulevard North. The owner attempted a few different development plans, but was limited because he was never allowed to build a street into a development. Any homes would have to have driveways to Barnegat Boulevard.
He urged the committee not to wait on letting this deal happen. The county has a lot of other options to spend their money on, and he did not want to see Barnegat lose this opportunity because they took too long.
Mayor Albert Bille said the developer wanted to sell the land to the town a few times. However, the town was not interested in paying high prices for land that might not have been easily developable.
If the land is made into preserved open space, the township would lose about $13,000 in taxes a year, he said.
An Agreement Underway
Bille said he met with the property owner on March 27, and they are coming to an agreement. The Township Committee will have to meet in closed session to discuss it further. “We’re coming to a favorable understanding between us and the owner,” he said. It will be brought up at the April 4 meeting.
Preservation of that land was originally proposed by the township years ago, but it never happened, said David McKeon, planning director for the county. The owner was asking a lot of money for it at the time.
Now, he said the owner has come back with a much more realistic price. However, the county still has to wait for the township to sign off on it. Until that happens, the county is on the sidelines.
Committeeman John Novak said that there is a small amount of Barnegat that can be purchased for open space. Anything west of the Garden State Parkway is protected by the Pinelands regulations, which are extremely strict about development. Anything east of Route 9 is under the Department of Environmental Protection’s stringent Coastal Area Facilities Review Act. That leaves the area between the Parkway and 9 for development. Or, to purchase as open space.
The property owner was given some relief by the town’s planning board so that he could make some development, he said. However, he is constrained now by modern economics and the logistics of the property. Homeowners would need to build bridges to reach their homes.
“Do we want a $2 million bailout for a guy who has a property he can’t build on?” he asked.
In related news, the township introduced ordinances taking donations of land from two private landowners. One of them was 13 Freeboard Ave., Block 92.64, Lot 19, on Ocean Acres Phase 3. It was assessed a $15,000. The other was 21 Spyglass Lane, Block 92.41, Lot 11.