Monday, May 27, 2024
HomenewsOpen Space Trust Funds Preserve New Jersey Green!

Open Space Trust Funds Preserve New Jersey Green!

You’ve likely heard horrible jokes about New Jersey’s traffic, toxic waste, Turnpike exits, and unpleasant odors.

But what about the image of the Garden State? Those of us who live in New Jersey are aware of the state’s abundance of vegetation.

This is the most densely inhabited state in the country, although approximately one-third of our territory is protected as open space and farming. You are seldom removed from a park, wildlife preserve, or farm.

That is not by chance. New Jerseyans, including urbanites, adore their green spaces and support the preservation of open space at every opportunity.

According to the “LandVote” database published by the Trust for Public Land, approximately 80 percent of the state, county, and municipal open space ballot questions have been approved by voters during the past three decades!

Thanks to these voters, hundreds of communities and all 21 counties have specific open spaces trust funds to finance the purchase of land for parks, recreation, farmland preservation, and historic preservation.

Additionally, local projects frequently receive matching money from the state Green Acres Program.

Our state has found that communities with more open space are healthier and more livable. Open space provides residents with places to walk, bike, picnic, and appreciate nature.

Open areas provide habitat for wildlife, minimize flooding, and improve the quality of the air by filtering out contaminants. Green spaces minimize noise pollution and the “heat island” effect of asphalt and concrete in urban areas.

This November, six municipalities, including Hoboken, New Brunswick, North Caldwell, Verona, South Brunswick, and Beach Haven, will vote on open space issues. Curiously, each of these municipalities is either urban or suburban.

Hoboken – Residents of the municipality will vote on two ballot questions pertaining to the open space trust fund established in 2007. The first ask locals if they want greater discretion in allocating funds for the construction of park facilities.

The second issue would increase the open space tax from 2 cents per $100 of assessed value to 3 cents per $100 of assessed value and allow monies to be allocated to historic preservation. The increase could assist the city in acquiring the former Union Dry Dock site along the Hudson River and converting it into a public park.

New Brunswick – The ballot issue asks voters if they support establishing the first open space trust fund in the Hub City at a tax rate of one penny per $100 of assessed value.

The money would be used for restoring and enhancing existing parks, constructing local playgrounds, preserving open space to assist prevent floods, and protecting the water quality of the Raritan River and its tributaries.

If enacted, it will cost the typical household $2.25 per month, and it includes stringent accountability mechanisms to ensure monies are spent appropriately.

North Caldwell — Voters in this Essex County municipality are asked if they want to establish a 15-year open space trust fund backed by a 1.5-cent-per-$100-of-assessed-value tax. The cash would be used to acquire, preserve, and restore Walker’s Pond park.

Verona – The question on the ballot asks voters to impose a tax of 2 cents per $100 of assessed value.

A fund for open space would enable the municipality to potentially construct open space by purchasing partially developed properties and dismantling structures, despite the fact that this area has little undeveloped property.

Additionally, funds could be utilized to maintain existing open spaces, such as sports grounds.

Since 1996, South Brunswick, Middlesex County, has had an open space trust fund.
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The ballot question asks voters to increase the open space tax from 4 cents per $100 of assessed value to 7 cents per $100 of assessed value since the existing tax does not generate sufficient funds to acquire new properties and settle debt from previously conserved sites.

Six of the seven cents would be utilized for property acquisition, while the remaining cent would be used for park development.

This little municipality on Long Beach Island is seeking voter approval for a 1 cent per $100 assessed value open space tax. Officials stated that the tax will allow the borough to potentially maintain any open space that comes up for sale, as well as improve parks and playgrounds.
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Communities and the environment benefit from parks, playgrounds, pathways, meadows, forests, and farms. But they are also economically rational.

Land preservation increases the value of neighboring properties and reduces infrastructure and service costs, so saving tax funds. It has been stated numerous times that cows do not attend school.

Congratulations to these six towns for their forward-thinking vision and dedication to their inhabitants’ health and quality of life!

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