Thursday, October 11, 2007

M’town: Possible land deal for green acres?/OCT. 11


The Middletown Township Committee passed a resolution to go forward with an application to the Monmouth County Open Space Trust Fund (MCOSTF) for grant assistance at a workshop meeting held on Monday Oct. 1.

The governing body discussed the possible purchase of green acres that consists of approximately 60 acres on either side of Kings Highway East between Heritage Drive and Normandy Road. The mayor said there is an operating landscape business that is not included in the purchase. The property in question, commonly known as Block 698 Lot 192 and Block 825 Lot 2Q consists of assessed farmland and open space.

The township, which owns a 50-acre tract of land on Kings Highway East, would like to acquire the property for more open space. The township did not comment on what they would like to do with the land if the property was purchased.

The current green acres property borders the land the township is interested in acquiring. “It actually adjoins this property that we are talking about, but it adjoins it behind where the landscaper’s operation is,” Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger said.

When asked by Middletown resident Frederick Wagner how to access the property the township owns, Scharfenberger said, “You can physically access the property from Kings Highway East and also from Florence Road, off of Swartzel Drive, but there is really no formal access to the property”

According to the mayor, the smaller tract of land consists of 15 acres of the land and is currently being used for open space and animal grazing.

“There are virtually no trees on the property and it is directly across the road from the larger piece of property that has a nice old house and barn,” Scharfenberger said.

Scharfenberger said the other parcel of land has approximately 44 acres, which is primarily wetlands.

“A lot of property has wetland issues particularly further back into the property,” the mayor said.

If the township does move forward with the purchase of the property they did not disclose any financial details yet regarding the purchase price.

According to the mayor the township plans to apply for a grant in the amount of $250,000 to the MCOSTF before the township settles into a contract for the purchase of the land located on Kings Highway East.

Middletown resident Don Watson addressed the governing body and questioned how the township would pay for the remainder of the balance if the grant were awarded in the amount of $250,000.

The mayor said that the township normally pays for 50 percent of the cost for open space, while the county pays for the other half.

According to MCOSTF Web site, Monmouth County will fund up to fifty percent of eligible project costs and county funding will be limited to $250,000 per project. Matching funds must be non-county funds.

After a Holland Drive resident voiced support for open space instead of building condos on the property, Scharfenberger said, “They can’t build condos there no matter what. They can build single-family houses on both tracts under current zoning laws.”

“That doesn’t mean that the zoning has to stay that way,” said Watson. “As we see in Navesink, they received permission from the state to use open space land for 180-unit complex.”

Committeeman Thomas Wilkens said, “I just want to reiterate the fact that today we are just looking to authorize the application for grant money.”

The next township meeting will be held on Monday, Oct. 15.

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