Freehold Township will pay $14M to preserve open space tract


FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – The Township Committee has appropriated $14.3 million to preserve a 150-acre open space property on Ely Harmony Road in Freehold Township.

During a meeting on June 28, committee members adopted a bond ordinance that provides the funding to be used for the purchase of the parcel at 429 Ely Harmony Road. The ordinance authorizes the issuance of $13.6 million in bonds or notes to finance a portion of the appropriation.

A down payment of $680,000 from Freehold Township’s Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund will cover the remaining costs, according to the ordinance.

At the same time, the committee members adopted an ordinance which authorizes the purchase of the property. The ordinance states that Freehold Township is acquiring the property for open space or other public purposes.

Municipal officials negotiated with the property owner to purchase 429 Ely Harmony Road for $13.8 million, according to the ordinance.

Under municipal statute, the $14.3 million appropriation may only be used to acquire, preserve, maintain and improve lands for open space, conservation, recreation, farmland preservation and historic preservation, outside of paying for debt service or indebtedness resulting from those purposes, according to the bond ordinance.

Township Administrator Peter Valesi said the 150-acre parcel is in a Rural Environmental zone and is currently owned by Gerald Baldachino (T/A Monmouth Meadows). He said the site could be developed with 15 homes.

The property contains a house and farm related buildings, which will be part of the purchase, but are not in use, according to Valesi. The house and buildings will be located and quantified as part of Freehold Township’s survey and due diligence in the transaction.

“Our stance is that the property is in a State Planning Area 5 and is in an important location adjacent to the headwaters of the South Branch of the Metedeconk River. This parcel has been a target for open space acquisition for over a decade, so as soon as it became a possibility, we moved to purchase it,” Valesi said.