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Toms River council supports county’s purchase of open space

The Toms River Township Council has passed a resolution supporting Ocean County’s potential purchase of property for open space preservation purposes.

At its Nov. 27 meeting, council members voted unanimously to pass the resolution. The open space parcels in the township under consideration are: 1620 North Bay Ave., 15.4 acres; Cleveland Street, 1.9 acres; Sayerville Street, 2.4 acres; Sayerville Street, 2.5 acres; and Sayerville Street, 5 acres.

“This is a win, win, win,” Councilman Maurice Hill said. “Councilman George Wittmann knew the owner of (one) property, Frank Grasso. He explored whether (Grasso) was interested in selling it to the township.

“We subsequently learned Ocean County was purchasing the eastern side of a North Bay property owned by Sidney Krupnick. George (Wittmann) had an idea about a bike path going from Old Freehold Road through this property owned by Mr. Grasso,” Hill said.

Business Administrator Don Guardian said Ocean County will purchase the properties to preserve them as open space.

“The resolution was for the council (to) support and encourage the county to assist with additional open space. The resolution was necessary before the county takes action,” Guardian said.

Hill said, “In addition, our business administrator approached the county about purchasing both sides of the property on North Bay and we are able use county funding, not township funding, to preserve that open space.”

Guardian said that in the 2017 election, residents voted by a margin of 70 percent to 30 percent to preserve open space properties.

“But in the 2018 election, residents voted by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent not to add additional open space property taxes. Clearly, residents want land preserved, but they want to find an alternate way to pay for it,” Guardian said.

“We have been working since February with Ocean County and the state on Green Acres and Blue Acres funding to purchase a number of properties throughout the township,” he said.

Mark Villinger, the supervising planner for Ocean County, said the next step for the county would be to have the Natural Lands and Trust Fund Advisory Committee review the properties and make recommendations regarding the potential purchases to the Ocean County Board of Freeholders.

“We are going to have our committee review (these properties), after which there will be a formal recommendation to the freeholders, who would hold a public hearing in the future,” Villinger said.

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