By Mark Rosman
ALLENTOWN – Borough officials want to put Allentown in a line with other Garden State municipalities that are seeking state funding to preserve open space and stave off development.
Municipal officials have filed an application with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Planning Incentive Program. The move could give Allentown access to state funding when an opportunity to preserve open space presents itself, Mayor Greg Westfall said on Feb. 28.
That evening, the Borough Council conducted a public hearing regarding the application for Green Acres funding. There is no guarantee Allentown will receive funding, but filing the application does not commit the borough to any expenditures, according to the mayor.
“There is no financial commitment by Allentown unless there are willing sellers (of property) and partners that would join with the borough to purchase properties,” Westfall said.
Potential partners that could join with Allentown to purchase open space include the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the Trust for Public Land, he said.
Westfall said Allentown is permitted to apply for Green Acres funding because it has an open space tax in place.
A municipal open space tax payment is collected from property owners each year and is used to fund the acquisition and preservation of open space parcels. In addition to municipalities which have enacted an open space tax, Monmouth County also collects an open space tax payment from every property owner in the county.
When the meeting was opened to public comment, Jay Davidson said he supports the council’s Green Acres application. Davidson said he is a member of the Fire Police and told officials, “We don’t need more traffic on Church Street.”
Ann Garrison offered her support for the application, as did Nancy Tindall, who chairs the Allentown Environmental Commission.
“The environmental commission has endorsed this application and we encourage you to move forward,” Tindall told Westfall and the council members.
Westfall concluded the Green Acres public hearing by telling the residents who were present that the application for state open space funding is an attempt to look a decade or more into the future, as well as a move to identify property owners who would be willing sellers.
“We are trying to be proactive,” the mayor said.