Monday, May 3, 2010

Hillsborough and Somerset County working to preserve 57-acre farm (05/03/10)

Original article appeared on

Hillsborough and Somerset County working to preserve 57-acre farm

    HILLSBOROUGH — Township and county officials are working to preserve the development rights of the 57-acre Maple Lane Farm on Township Line Road. If the preservation is successful, it will bring the total farmland acreage preserved in the area between Township Line and Homestead Roads to more than 800 acres, said Mayor Frank DelCore.

    The purchase price is $1.1 million or $19,500 per acre. The property will remain a farm in private hands in perpetuity, but the development rights will be stripped from the land, said Clerk and Business Administrator Kevin Davis. Through a resolution approved by the Township Committee in June 2009, the township had committed to providing $200,000 or 18 percent of the cost from the Township's Open Space Trust Fund. The county had originally agreed to pay $244,600 or 22 percent of the cost. The state was expected to fund 60 percent of the cost.

    However, Tom Miller, the attorney representing the county, said Monday the Somerset County Agriculture Development Board, who is coordinating the effort, has gained financial commitments from the New Jersey Conservation Foundation for $530,000 and the federal Farm and Ranchland Protection program for $581,500. As a result of that additional funding, Miller said the township and the county might not be required to provide the funds it originally committed. The additional funds are expected to be received no later than the property's closing expected by June 30, Miller said.

     Committeeman Bob Wagner, liaison to the Open Space Advisory Committee, said the farmland preservation had been a priority for that committee. "The good news is that the acreage can be preserved from development, the better news is that Hillsborough may not have to contribute any funds toward that preservation," he said.

     According to the New Jersey Conservation Exchange, the Maple Lane Farm property is located in the Raritan-Piedmont Wildlife Habitat Partnership (RPWHP) Grassland Conservation plan and marked as a "high priority" property for protection.

    The Bobolink, Dolichonyx oryzivorus, a small New World blackbird and a state-threatened species, has been observed on a portion of the property. Additionally, the property is located next to more than 250 acres of additional suitable habitat and sits east of the largest expanse of open space in the area — the Sourland Mountain Preserve.

    Pamela Sroka-Holzmann: 908-243-6615

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