The Ocean County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the preservation of 32 acres of land in the Breton Woods section of Brick Township, ending concerns over the possible residential development of the property and keeping it open space.
Prior to voting on the recommendation of the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee to preserve the property, a number of Brick Township residents spoke before the Commissioners during a public hearing, often emotionally, offering their appreciation for the action of the Board to save the land on Laurel Avenue from development.
“We are very pleased that this parcel of land will now remain open space for public use,” said Ocean County Commissioner Virginia E. Haines, liaison to the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Program. “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.
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.
“There was extensive discussion and review of this land by the committee,” Haines said. “The last step of the process was the action this Board took today (March 1) holding a public hearing on the purchase before voting on final approval so the land could be preserved.”
After the vote, the Commissioners extended their appreciation to the residents, Brick Township and environmental groups that worked to bring this before the County and ultimately receive the approval to preserve the property.
“We thank all of you that are here today,” said Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Joseph H. Vicari. “We preserve land not just for our children but for our children’s children. We preserve land for the future of the County.”
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. Brick Township will provide $1,710,000 and $6,840,000 from Ocean County. Both the Township and County will seek grant funding from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres program.
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.
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,” Vicari said. “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.
Ocean County Commissioner John P. Kelly highlighted the ability of everyone – including Democrats and Republicans – to work together.
“This preservation shows that it’s possible for all of us – no matter what side of the political aisle you are on – can work together in the best interest of the people that we serve,” he said.