the virtual ink dried on the paperwork Wednesday, July 26, the steps to preserve 32 acres of land on Laurel Avenue in the Breton Woods section of Brick Township were finalized.
“The concerns over the possible residential development of this property can now be formally laid to rest as the parcel will now forever remain open space,” said Ocean County Commissioner Virginia E. Haines, liaison to the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee.
The closing on the property took place virtually with representatives from Ocean County, Brick Township and the property owner.
“We are very pleased that this purchase is now complete and the parcel of land will now remain open space for public use,” Haines said. “This purchase represents the partnership with this Board, the County Natural Lands Trust Advisory Committee, Brick Township and our residents, who worked together to save this property from development.
“This property meets the requirements of the County’s open space program and will be a benefit to the residents of Brick Township and Ocean County,” she said.
A development application for the property which was being heard by the Brick Township Planning Board could have resulted in the construction of 59 single family homes. The application was met by strong opposition from residents and environmental groups.
The purchase received the approval of the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee, which voted on preserving the parcel during its Jan. 25 meeting. At the recommendation of the Trust Fund Advisory Committee, the Board of Commissioners approved the purchase during its March 1 public meeting.
The site consists of over 30 acres of mature, upland, oak and pine forest. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has identified the site as an area of special concern for the Eastern Box Turtle and it also serves as a important migratory bird habitat.
“Existing trails on this site have been enjoyed by surrounding residents,” Haines said. “Its permanent preservation will be enjoyed by the public.”
Preservation of this tract also protects a groundwater recharge area and prevents further development and stormwater runoff which would impact the environmentally sensitive Metedeconk River and Barnegat Bay.
DR Horton of Mount Laurel, the contract purchaser of the site, accepted a negotiated offer of $8,550,000.
Brick Township agreed to partner with Ocean County on the purchase providing $1,710,000. The Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund is providing $6,840,000.
Brick Township anticipates developing a six acre parcel of the site adjacent to the Osbornville Elementary School in to a playground. The Township has also committed to maintaining the entire site through a maintenance agreement with the County.
“Ocean County appreciates Brick Township’s interest in partnering with us on this acquisition,” said Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Joseph H. Vicari.
“We are pleased that we can purchase the property and keep it as open space forever. I appreciate the efforts of Brick Township to develop six acres to benefit the local school children.
“Certainly, this purchase answers the concerns of the many residents that encouraged the preservation of the land,” Vicari said.