By Jeff Tittel
Jackson Township is considering increasing its open space tax rate from 2 cents to 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Jackson currently has the second highest open space tax rate in Ocean County.
Jackson is one of the fastest growing towns in New Jersey, currently with about 217 housing units per square mile. It seems like every time you look there’s a new development being proposed.
Jackson is getting clobbered from over-development and increasing the open space tax will help. The measure asking residents to increase the open space tax rate will be voted on during the election on Nov. 3.
One of the best ways to stop over-development and protect Jackson from sprawl is to restore the open space tax back to 3 cents per $100.
All of this development means more traffic, water pollution and flooding, and a decrease in quality of life. It is important to invest in open space as a way to help Jackson prepare for the future.
It may cost money in the beginning, but overall the town will be saving money. Limiting over-development means taxpayers won’t be spending money on building schools, roads, traffic lights or infrastructure costs like sewers.
The New Jersey Sierra Club helped Jackson pass a tree ordinance that requires developers to replace trees that have been disturbed by construction, or to pay into a fund so the trees may be replaced.
In 2009, the Supreme Court decided in favor of the Jackson tree ordinance, protecting more than 200 municipalities in New Jersey with similar ordinances. The ruling included a critical point that development must consider the effects on the larger ecosystem, not only the individual lot.
Preserving open space is not enough to stop over-development in Jackson. The town needs to change zoning and limit sewers and other infrastructure in environmentally sensitive and rural areas.
About half of New Jersey’s 566 towns collect an open space tax because doing so makes towns more valuable and saves money in the long-term. Properties near open space are 20% more valuable than those in densely populated areas. It also helps protect against flooding and storm-water runoff.
The Sierra Club worked with Jackson for years on a conservation zone. Even though only part of Jackson is in the Pinelands, the entire township should be because it is an environmentally sensitive area with many important streams and wetlands.
The open space tax rate in Jackson was 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation from 2004-10, but it was lowered to 2 cents per $100 due to the economic recession.
There have been complaints about over-development in Jackson for the past 10 years, with two developers suing the township after the zoning board denied their applications.
Setting aside funding for open space is an important way to preserve environmentally sensitive areas in Jackson. The town is constantly growing, increasing over-development and sprawl in an area that already has too much over-development and traffic.
More impervious coverage means more storm-water runoff and pollution. Increasing the open space tax rate to 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation will mean that more open space can be preserved.
We hope the people of Jackson vote for the proposed increase in the open space tax rate in November. Doing so will help protect Jackson and the environment from more development, from more pollution and from spending more tax dollars to build schools, roads and infrastructure.
Jeff Tittel is the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.