County Buys Open Space In Toms River

(Map courtesy Ocean County Freeholders)

TOMS RIVER – On the recommendation of the county’s Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee, the Ocean County Freeholders approved the purchase of more than 27 acres in three locations in Toms River.

The county will purchase 6.99 acres on Cleveland Street, 4.98 acres on Sayreville Street (both off Route 527), and 15.4 acres on North Bay Avenue just south of Green Leaf Court.

The Cleveland Street property sits adjacent to 111 acres of wetlands and conservation easement lands. The headwaters of the Toms River run nearby.

One professional appraisal was ordered to assess the property; the county will pay $155,000 plus up to $1,270 in property tax adjustments for it.

“We would eventually like to put a trail system – a walking and hiking trail system – through there,” Freeholder Gerry P. Little said. “It also has approvals for an 18-lot subdivision, and so it’s very important to conserve this area. It is a forested area.”

The wooded Sayreville Street property also sits adjacent to that 111 acres of wetland and conservation easement lands. It was approved for two single-family home lots.

“These two acquisitions are adjacent to each other,” Little said of this and the Cleveland Street purchase.

The county had one professional appraisal completed and will purchase the land for $110,000 plus up to $467 in property tax adjustments.

The North Bay Avenue acquisition “is very important environmentally, and a greenway,” Little said. It’s near the Kettle Creek watershed conservation area and the North Bay Avenue extension area.

That property, subdivided for 18 homes, will be purchased for $2 million plus up to $6,304 in property tax adjustments. The county ordered two professional appraisals for this property.

(Map courtesy Ocean County Freeholders)

The county seeks the approval of such purchases from the townships first, since that property will be removed from tax rolls once owned by the county. The Toms River Council approved these acquisitions back in November.

Public comment was open on all three purchases, though no one offered comment at the Freeholder meeting. Previously, residents of Green Leaf Court, neighbors of the North Bay property, had petitioned the township to buy the land, providing photos of endangered wildlife on the site. The township instead looked to the county to purchase it.

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.