Plan for open space fund to be on November ballot

Plan for open space fund
to be on November ballot

JACKSON — The Township Commit-tee will ask residents in November if they are willing to pay a special assessment to help purchase and preserve open space.

Earlier this month committee members passed a resolution authorizing the placement of a non-binding referendum question on the Nov. 6 Election Day ballot. The question posed to voters will be, "Will you add 1.5 cents (per $100 of assessed valuation) to your (municipal) tax rate for the purposes of establishing an open space fund?"

Mayor Joseph Grisanti said he thinks residents would be willing to pay to establish such a fund. He said plans for the non-binding referendum have been in the works for a year.

The resolution states that the funds collected through the assessment will be designated solely for the purchase of active recreation property, passive recreation property and water quality protection.

If residents approve the referendum and committee members vote to enact a 1.5-cent open space assessment, the annual cost to the owner of a home assessed at $120,000 will be $18.

Typically, the money collected by municipalities which have open space funds in place is used to help fund the issuance of bonds that are used to purchase property.

Township officials said the establishment of a dedicated open space fund would assure residents that Jackson would be able to respond quickly by purchasing undeveloped land and increasing local park and recreation areas. They said the open space fund would also allow the township to qualify for new matching funds offered by the state Green Acres program.

Although the referendum is non-binding and does not guarantee the committee will enact the open space assessment if voters approve it, Grisanti said the committee is backing the referendum and will support its passage.

The mayor said he views the referendum as a major step in protecting land for opens space, something the township is quickly running out of.

"I’m hoping the referendum passes," Grisanti said, citing Brick Township and Dover Township as a pair of Ocean County communities where residents overwhelmingly supported similar referendums."

"This is something I’ve wanted to do for at least three years," Committeeman Marvin Krakower said. "We will be working with the state and county officials to identify properties that we would like to acquire."

Krakower said a partnership between the state, the county and the township would essentially increase the purchasing power of the township. He commented that county officials have already identified certain properties that they are interested in purchasing in Jackson.

"We’re going to be proactive, not reactive in our support of this referendum," Krakower said. "We will have everything in place by the time the referendum comes up."

— Clare M. Masi