HomeTri TownTri Town NewsHowell council votes to acquire 30-acre tract on West Farms Road

Howell council votes to acquire 30-acre tract on West Farms Road

HOWELL – The members of the Township Council have voted to acquire a tract of land on West Farms Road in Howell. The township’s purchase of the land will preclude it from being developed.

On May 19, Mayor Theresa Berger, Deputy Mayor Evelyn O’Donnell, Councilman John Bonevich, Councilwoman Pamela Richmond and Councilman Thomas Russo voted “yes” on a motion to adopt an ordinance which authorizes the acquisition of the property from the Monmouth Conservation Foundation.

The 30-acre vacant parcel on West Farms Road is known as the United Talmudical Academy Torah Vey property. The cost of the property is $1.14 million. According to the ordinance, municipal officials will pay for the purchase with open space funds, any available grant money and taxpayer funds in an amount not to exceed $10,000.

In a second action, officials adopted an ordinance which amends a 2019 ordinance. The 2019 ordinance authorized the acquisition of 10 acres adjacent to Deerwood Park on Lakewood-Allenwood Road.

The 2020 amendment proposed using taxpayer funds in an amount not to exceed $15,000 to acquire a right of way that abuts the road so the right of way is not encumbered as Green Acres property, making it easier to perform work at that location in the future if needed.

In a third action, council members adopted an ordinance which amends another 2019 ordinance. The 2019 ordinance authorized the acquisition of 4 acres from the Monmouth Conservation Foundation for open space preservation. The parcel is known as the Van Schoick property on Preventorium Road.

The 2020 ordinance proposed using taxpayer funds in an amount not to exceed $1,000 to acquire a right of way that abuts the road so the right of way is not encumbered as Green Acres property, making it easier to perform work at that location in the future if needed.

One ordinance that was on the May 19 agenda for a possible vote for adoption was tabled in a vote that split the governing body’s Republican and Democratic members.

In 2019, council members authorized the acquisition of 13.5 acres on Preventorium Road known as the Berger-Wind property. The parcel is owned by the mayor’s husband and her sister-in-law.

The ordinance on the May 19 agenda proposed using taxpayer funds in an amount not to exceed $10,000 to acquire a right of way that abuts the road so the right of way is not encumbered as Green Acres property, making it easier to perform work at that location in the future if needed.

When the ordinance was read, O’Donnell made a motion to table the legislation so municipal officials could obtain a new appraisal on the property.

Bonevich asked O’Donnell if she would want to table an open space acquisition if a different name was on the property.

O’Donnell said she just wanted the council members to due their due diligence on this matter.

Berger said she believed the move was personal.

“I will say why, because this has been out on the table. This has been here all this time and this has been in the township, we talked about this last year and you voted on it last year,” Berger said.

Bonevich noted that O’Donnell voted to introduce the ordinance two weeks earlier.

O’Donnell said two people called her and asked her why a council member is apparently profiting from a public action. She said that is why she wanted to do her due diligence.

“With all due respect, I lost money with this. The property was appraised higher and the decision of my husband’s family was to put it toward open space because that is what we believe in,” Berger said.

Republicans O’Donnell, Richmond and Russo voted “yes” on O’Donnell’s motion to table the ordinance. Democrats Berger and Bonevich abstained on the vote. The motion to table the ordinance regarding the Berger-Wind property passed 3-0, with two abstentions.

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