City wants to acquire Jean tract

By Linda Seida, Staff Writer
   LAMBERTVILLE — The city is going after the second to last remaining tract of undeveloped land in Lambertville with an eye toward preservation.
   The 1.082 acres is located at 25 Jean St. on Music Mountain. It is adjacent to land behind Ely Field already preserved as open space by the city.
   The last remaining tract surrounds the old Lambertville High School.
   Property owners pay an open space tax of 2 cents for every $100 of assessed value. Voters approved the tax by referendum in 2004 for the sole purpose of preserving the land behind Ely Field known as the Buchanan property.
   According to Mayor David Del Vecchio, the city will not seek to raise the open space tax to pay for the new tract of land, known as the McCann property.
   But voters in November will be asked to approve expanding the purpose of the collected tax money to include payment for the McCann land, the mayor said.
   ”The point is, the last referendum was so specific it pertained only to the Buchanan property,” Mayor Del Vecchio said. “It was supposed to end when the Buchanan property was paid for.”
   Neither the mayor nor the city clerk could offer an estimate of how much the land might cost. Appraisals, authorized last week by the City Council, are due in approximately a month, according to Clerk Lori Buckelew.
   ”I don’t think you can guess until the appraisals come back,” Mayor Del Vecchio said.
   Two appraisals are being sought per the guidelines of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres program. The city previously won three Green Acres grants to offset the purchase price of the Buchanan property.
   The firms who will perform the appraisals are MGM Associates of Flemington and Ronald A. Curini Appraisal Co. of Hamilton.
   As the city did with the Buchanan property it purchased last July, Lambertville would attempt to offset the purchase price with grant money, Mayor Del Vecchio said.
   Lambertville bought the Buchanan property’s 16.5 acres for $1.4 million. However, taxpayers are responsible at this point for only $575,000 because the city won grants totaling $825,000.
   Almost $300,000 in open space tax has been collected so far, leaving about $275,000 still to be raised.
   If voters approve expanding the purpose of the open space tax, the city intends to use the McCann property for passive recreation.