County plans to acquire conservation easement on Upper Freehold parcel

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The Monmouth County Board of Freeholders plans to acquire a conservation easement on property in Upper Freehold Township that will preclude the parcel from being developed.

During their meeting on Feb. 19 in Freehold Borough, the freeholders passed a resolution authorizing the acquisition of the conservation easement on a 17.9-acre property at 72 Yellow Meeting House Road, Upper Freehold.

The property is known as the Friends of the Old Yellow Meeting House property. The freeholders said a formal offer for the purchase of a conservation easement has been accepted by the property owner in the amount of $390,000.

Freeholder Director Thomas Arnone, Deputy Director Patrick Impreveduto, Freeholder Lillian Burry, Freeholder Gerry Scharfenberger and Freeholder Susan Kiley voted “yes” on a motion to pass the resolution.

The freeholders said that in addition to accepting the offer for the conservation easement, the property owner has agreed to enter into a right of first refusal option agreement with the county so the parcel may be acquired in the future.

The Monmouth County Board of Recreation Commissioners recommended that the freeholders purchase the conservation easement and enter into the right of first refusal option agreement.

The action advances the county’s goals of open space and historic preservation, natural resources conservation, and public park and recreation purposes. The move ensures the parcel will not be developed.

Funds for the purchase of the conservation easement will come from the Monmouth County Open Space, Recreation, Floodplain Protection, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.

The Nature Conservancy, which is an organization whose vision “is a world where the diversity of life thrives and people act to conserve nature for its own sake and its ability to fulfill our needs and enrich our lives,” states that conservation easements “have protected millions of acres of wildlife habitat and open space, and … are one of the most powerful, effective tools available for the permanent conservation of private lands in the United States.”

The Nature Conservancy states that “conservation easements protect land for future generations while allowing owners to retain many private property rights … In a conservation easement, a landowner voluntarily agrees to sell or donate certain rights associated with his or her property, often the right to subdivide or develop, and a private organization or public agency agrees to hold the right to enforce the landowner’s promise not to exercise those rights. In essence, the rights are forfeited and no longer exist.”

The Old Yellow Meeting House website states that in 1720, a house of worship and a burial ground was built on land donated by Thomas and Rachel Salter. The original church burned, was replaced by the present meeting house in 1737, and became informally known as the Old Yellow Meeting House. It is the oldest Baptist meeting house in New Jersey and believed to be the third oldest in the United States.

The parsonage that is still standing was built around 1830. Additions were made to the meeting house and the parsonage at unknown dates. The church is no longer used for regular worship services.

The oldest dated grave in the cemetery is that of John Salter, son of Thomas and Rachel, who died on Aug. 29, 1723. There are unmarked stones thought to be older and it is believed there are unmarked graves. Veterans of the American Revolution and of subsequent wars are buried in the cemetery. U.S. flags mark the veterans’ graves.

Since 1977, the meeting house, parsonage and burial grounds have been restored under the auspices of the Friends of the Old Yellow Meeting House, according to the website. The meeting house is at 70 Yellow Meeting House Road, Upper Freehold.