Land preservation bill passes committee

Mar 14 2019 | 04:48 AM

    Legislation approved by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee gives a tool for municipalities to sell land they acquired through tax foreclosures.
    Sponsored by Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths, the bill exempts government entities from community fees on land acquired for open space.
    The measure eliminates deed covenants that have held up the state Department of Environmental Protection’s purchase of three parcels from Sandyston Township for the last four years.
    “Unnecessary restrictions may interfere with municipalities trying to sell unwanted parcels of land,” said Space. “The town’s taxpayers are on the hook for these properties. This measure promotes open space while protecting the rights of landowners.”
    The township acquired eight acres on Devita Road bordering Stokes State Forest in tax foreclosures. An agreement with DEP was stalled by language in the deeds allowing property owners to form a community and asses fees to maintain its private road and lakes. There are more than a dozen residences and undeveloped lots and one road.
    “This bill will accomplish two goals, encouraging land preservation where it makes sense as well as bringing in new revenue to a municipality like Sandyston, which can use the proceeds to hold the line on property taxes,” said Wirths. “It’s a win-win.”
    New Jersey’s quality of life perception is at a 40-year-low, according to a Monmouth University poll of residents last month. The driving factor behind this regression is property taxes, which residents name as the main issue facing the state.
    “Hal and I have sponsored more than 90 bills concerning property tax relief,” Space added. “The more restrictions and red tape we can eliminate will go a long way in helping local governments keep a lid on spending.”
    The Senate passed a version of the bill sponsored by Sen. Steve Oroho in September.