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Walsh: Preserving land is hallmark of Monmouth County

HOWELL – Township Councilman Bob Walsh has praised Monmouth County residents for approving an increase in the county’s open space tax rate.

County officials have said the additional revenue that will be generated by the open space tax will allow for the purchase and maintenance of land for preservation purposes.

Walsh said preserving land is the “hallmark” of Monmouth County.

“A lot of people say, ‘Whatever you do, do not raise my taxes’ and I hear them and listen to them, but I just want to say that when it comes to preserving land in Monmouth County, (a public question) passed again to raise the (open space) tax of every individual who owns a home, to preserve more land. It is one of our hallmarks in this county,” he said.

Walsh said residents want to see more farms, parks and beaches.

On Nov. 7, voters passed a proposal that will raise Monmouth County’s open space tax rate from from 1.5 cents to 2.75 cents per $100 of equalized valuation. The margin of victory on the public question was 58 percent in favor to 42 percent opposed.

The increase in the open space tax rate means the owner of a home assessed at $400,000 will see the amount he pays into the county’s open space trust fund on an annual basis increase from $60 to $110.

County officials have said the trust fund will be used to acquire, preserve and maintain open space parcels and to preclude development from occurring on those properties.

Walsh said the outcome on the public question was “pretty overwhelming” and he said that is “part of why I think we live in one of the best places to live in the United States of America.”

Monmouth County has 53 municipalities and although the open space tax rate question passed overall, it was defeated by voters in Howell, 6,042 no to 5,921 yes.

Walsh said he was “very shocked” that Howell residents voted against the county question.

“Maybe in the influx of people coming from (northern New Jersey) to (Howell), maybe people care more about taxes than anything else. I really am shocked. It could be many reasons, maybe since there was not a local (Township Council) election the people did not turn out,” he said.

In related business, on Nov. 21, the Howell Township Council authorized the award of a one-year contract to the Monmouth Conservation Foundation (MCF) to assist the township in its efforts to preserve open space and farmland.

According to the resolution, the MCF is a nonprofit county-based land trust that proposed to assist Howell in its efforts to preserve open space and farmland, and to create parks. The foundation provides consulting services to local governments and organizations on a fee basis.

The council’s resolution states that using an autonomous, nonprofit organization as a third party negotiator is beneficial in many cases because some land owners are hesitant to work with a government or government representatives.

At the same meeting, the council authorized the execution of an agreement with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Green Acres program.

Municipal officials announced in October that Howell had been approved for a $750,000 grant from the DEP’s Preservation Trust Fund for the acquisition of open space under the Green Acres program.

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