Montgomery Township adds 50 acres of preserved open space

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By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
Montgomery Township has added 50 acres of undeveloped land to its growing list of preserved open space properties, having closed and taken title to two properties on opposite sides of the township.
The township closed on a 34.5-acre parcel on Route 518, between Hollow Road and Spring Hill Road. The township had been eyeing the property for open space preservation for some time, and agreed to pay $1.1 million for it. A 50/50 cost-sharing agreement with Somerset County is pending.
The land is located on the south side of Route 518. It is adjacent to other open space parcels and farmland, as well as other parcels that the township would like to preserve.
The goal is to create a greenway to keep the viewshed open and rural along the township’s western gateway, where motorists and bicyclists enter Montgomery Township from Hopewell Township.
Township officials became aware that the property was available when two “for sale” signs appeared on it in May. The owner, 901 Realty Associates LLC, had owned the land since 2001 and agreed to sell it after being approached by the township.
The property owner had plans to develop the land at some point in the future, but listed it for sale. Part of the land is in the sewer service area and could have been developed for residential purposes.
Other parties had expressed an interest in the parcel and were pursuing it, Mayor Ed Trzaska said. If the township had not purchased the land, “it would have been developed and its viewshed lost forever,” he said.
“I am really proud of this deal,” Mayor Trzaska said.
The second parcel is a 15.5-acre tract on Belle Mead-Griggstown Road that formerly belonged to Congregation Kehilat Shalom. The land is being subdivided from the congregation’s property.
Township officials said the acquisition of the tract will preserve a mature forest and the Pike Brook stream corridor. It also connects other preserved greenways along Pike Brook, and will allow for a future pathway connection from the Millers Grove and Pike Run neighborhoods to Montgomery Veterans Park.
The township paid $238,778 for the property, using money from its Open Space Trust Fund. The congregation will keep 6.1 acres, including its building and parking lot.
“This is a key parcel of remaining forested land along a stream corridor in Belle Mead,” Mayor Trzaska said, thanking the congregation being conservation-minded and for its patience while township officials worked on the acquisition.
About 36 percent of Montgomery Township is preserved or protected land, Mayor Trzaska said.