Millstone officials identify areas for farmland preservation efforts

MILLSTONE – Municipal officials in Millstone Township are seeking funding from the state as they work to continue preserving farmland in the community.

On Dec. 16, Township Committee members authorized Millstone’s comprehensive farmland preservation plan to be submitted to the municipal Planning Incentive Grant program of the State Agricultural Development Committee (SADC). That same day, the current farmland preservation plan was approved by the township’s Planning Board.

As stated in a resolution, the plan identifies land that meets the criteria for farmland preservation in accordance with the requirements of state and county farmland preservation programs.

Through the plan, Millstone officials will be able to continue to access funds from the SADC’s municipal Planning Incentive Grant program and any other programs that offer funding for farmland preservation, according to the resolution.

The plan also allows Millstone to acquire as many farmland preservation easements from eligible farms as possible in partnership with the SADC and Monmouth County.

“The pressures from development continue to pose a threat of imminent change of land use from productive agriculture to non-agricultural uses,” municipal officials wrote in the resolution. “Farmland preservation encourages the survivability of agricultural land and production, the rural character of the township and the township’s agrarian history.”

According to the plan, Millstone has preserved 537 acres of farmland since 2008. The township has dedicated $4 million to farmland preservation, while the county has provided $3.36 million and the state has provided $8.75 million, for a total cost of $16.1 million.

The normal cost share of farmland preservation initiatives is 16% of the acquisition price from the municipality, 24% from the county and 60% from the state, according to the plan.

In total, according to the plan, approximately 1,446 acres of farmland have been preserved in Millstone.

The plan identifies several areas that have been targeted by Millstone Township officials for future farmland preservation:

• The Perrineville East Project Area: a 2,224-acre area south of Route 33, east of Hickory Drive’s preserved open space, and bounded by Baird Road and Millstone Road to the west, Sweetmans Lane to the south and Route 527 to the east; 800 acres have been targeted for farmland preservation; a 24-acre farm in the area has been previously preserved.

• The Perrineville West Project Area: a 4,126-acre area south of Route 33 and west of Millstone Road, north of the New Jersey Equine Clinic and Witches Hollow Road, and east of Disbrow Hill Road; 960 acres (18 parcels) have been targeted for farmland preservation; 490 acres (14 parcels) have been previously preserved.

• The Clarksburg East Project Area: a 3,990-acre area south of Sweetmans Lane, east of Millstone Road, north of Stagecoach Road and west of Route 527; 690 acres have been targeted for farmland preservation; 12 farms totaling 560 acres have been previously preserved.

• The Clarksburg West Project Area: a 4,136-acre area between the western municipal boundary line and Route 571, south of Roosevelt and north of Route 537; 408 acres (12 parcels) have been targeted for farmland preservation; eight farms totaling 373 acres have been previously preserved.

In addition, the plan identifies 26 Rising Sun Tavern Road (29 acres), 54 Baird Road (53 acres), the house on 42 Olde Noah Hunt Road, the Hom house at 25 Millstone Road and the former Showplace Farms property at 505 Route 33 (143 acres) as areas that could be preserved because of their historical significance.

According to the plan, the average cost per acre is $29,000. If township officials are able to preserve 1,000 acres over the next decade and the average acreage cost does not change, the total cost would be $29 million. Millstone Township would pay $4.6 million, Monmouth County would pay $7 million and the state would pay $17.4 million under the established cost share percentages.