Story originally on DailyRecord.com
PEQUANNOCK — Five homes located in the floodplain of the Pompton River have been purchased and will be demolished with the land returned to its natural condition.
The Land Conservancy of New Jersey and the township announced the purchase Friday that was made in partnership with Morris County and the state of New Jersey’s Green Acres program, according to a prepared statement from the Conservancy.
These acquisitions will aid the community’s efforts to remove residents and their personal property from harm’s way during the onslaught of heavy rains and storms, the statement read.
“This has been an exciting year both with the massive flooding and the continuing buyout of homes for the Riverwalk,” said Frank Spizzirri, chair of the township’s Open Space Advisory Committee. “Phase 5 of the Riverwalk projects is almost concluded with contracts on 6 homes, of which 5 have been purchased and the last one in the wings and ready to set a closing date.”
The purchase and preservation of the five homes was coordinated by the Conservancy working with the township’s governing body and Open Space Advisory Committee.
Homes around the banks of the Pompton River have long suffered from flooding. The Pompton Riverwalk program provides space for flood storage, while creating new public recreation opportunities in the community, the statement read.
These five recently acquired properties bring the total to 21 lots that have been acquired under the Riverwalk initiative during the first five phases of the Riverwalk project. Once purchased, the properties have subsequently been cleared to provide flood storage and parkland, the release said.
During the most recent flooding, the water level reached 2 feet above the second floor of two of these five houses and all five of the structures were severely damaged. Each property is less than a third of an acre and averaged approximately $253,000 to purchase and preserve.
Two-thirds of the funding was provided by the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund and the balance was provided through the New Jersey Green Acres program. The township covered all of the due diligence costs of the transaction and will immediately begin the process of demolishing the structures and clearing the property for open space, the statement read.
“The successful transition of these areas from flood-ravaged residences to preserved parkland has been remarkable,” said Greg Collins, land preservation specialist with the Land Conservancy. “It makes great sense to see a dilapidated structure that was a headache for the homeowner and a burden on taxpayers converted into a park serving as a buffer against future flooding.”
Since its initial grant request for this project, the township has used $2,511,050 in grant funding from Morris County for the Riverwalk project and has matched this with funds provided through Green Acres totaling $2,330,150. Since 1999, the Land Conservancy of New Jersey has helped Pequannock preserve 27 properties, including the 21 properties which comprise the highly successful Pompton Riverwalk project.