As an aside, one wonders if the writer of this piece, Joseph Smith, is not a fan of such big purchases. Instead of focusing on the land preservation aspect, he chose to focus on the amount of money allocated for the purchase when writing the headline.
Check out the original article here. Photo credit: Joe Moore
N.J. spends big on Vineland land
The 519 acres, off Hance Bridge Road, now are restricted permanently by deed to strictly agricultural uses. That category doesn't include festivals, according to the State Agricultural Development Committee.
The state Farmland Preservation program paid $2 million for the rights, closing the deal Dec. 17, state agriculture department Secretary Douglas H. Fisher announced Monday.
The farm acreage is among about 563 acres that the Elwyn Institute sold in July 2009 to Vineland businessman Daniel Cervini for $4 million. The nonprofit institute has owned the land since 1981, when it took control of what then was known as The Training School at Vineland.
Cervini, who owns an automobile design business, did not return a phone call for comment about the transaction.
In 2009, Cervini obtained city zoning board approval to turn former cottages on the historic property into single-family housing. He also obtained approval to subdivide two small lots from the property for construction of a single-family house on each lot.
Fisher noted that the purchase was the largest farm rights purchase ever in Cumberland County. It also is the fourth largest acquisition New Jersey has made itself.
"The preservation of the Cervini farm represents a significant state investment in the future of agriculture in Cumberland County and in the community of Vineland," said Fisher, a former Cumberland County freeholder.
The acquisition also is notable in the context of the Vineland farming community, where farms tend to be small. Preservation efforts had netted only eight farms and 315 acres until the Cervini deal.
Mayor Robert Romano thought Cervini made the right choice to preserve the land. He knew Cervini had been considering either putting a solar field on the land or giving it to the state for farm preservation.
"I'm glad that's what the property is going to be used for because that's land preservation for Vineland," Romano said.
Hope Gruzlovic, a spokeswoman for the State Agricultural Development Committee, said Cervini applied to the state in March 2008 after signing a purchase contract on the land with Elwyn. He had first sought to enroll in county government's preservation program but the transaction was too large for the county to finance.
The city had been pegged to play host to what was to be called the Vineland Music Festival, to be held in the summer of 2009. But the plan fell apart following vocal opposition from residents in the area.
Gruzlovic said the sale agreement allows Cervini to carve out a 42-acre "exception area" around existing buildings on the land he bought from Elwyn. The exception area is adjacent to the 519-acre tract.
Cervini can subdivide and sell that exception area. He is allowed to have up to 10 single-family residences there.
Vineland Planner Steve Hawk said Cervini's zoning approval allows him to convert five old cottages on the property and three other buildings into housing for a total of eight dwellings. A former chapel may be turned into a community center.
"The remaining lands would be this big open (farm) piece," Hawk said. "However, he does have the ability to subdivide two lots off Hance Bridge Raod for single-family development. They are roughly 3.2 acres and 2.2 acres."
That area of the city is zoned for farms and woodlands.
"To have that preserved is in the spirit of those zones," Hawk said of the Farmland Preservation deal.