Lafayette residents urged to vote for Open Space Trust Fund Amendment

12 Oct 2020 | 04:42

Lafayette residents approved the Township’s initial Open Space referendum on Nov. 8, 2005, to establish a Municipal Open Space, Recreation, and Farmland, and Historic Preservation Trust that would be funded through the collection of an annual levy of between one ($0.01) and three ($0.03) cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The Trust Fund revenue was targeted primarily to acquire and preserve open space, recreation, farmland, and/or historic properties.

Since that time, Lafayette has successfully acquired just shy of 169 acres for active and passive recreation opportunity. The collection of the local open space tax has allowed Lafayette to leverage both state and county grant funding to use toward the purchase of the lands acquired. Recently, the Open Space Advisory Committee completed an update to the Lafayette Open Space and Recreation Plan that was referred to the Land Use Board for adoption as an element of the Master Plan.

The new plan reports that Lafayette has spent $928,634 to complete three preservation projects, but less than a third of that amount came from the local Open Space Trust fund as the township was able to leverage both state and county grants to support those acquisitions. These projects consist of the Lawlor Farm acquisition envisioned for future active recreation and two others, Moose-Castimore and the Morgan Farm, that encompass the Statesville Quarry Ridge Preserve.

State statute regulates the purposes that funds from a local Open Space Trust can be used for. Although Lafayette previously focused its open space program upon acquiring property, Green Acres rules allow municipalities to revisit a previously approved proposition regarding open space conservation to add such things as development of township preserved properties.

This Nov. 3, Lafayette voters will see a referendum question on their ballots that asks whether township residents are in favor of granting the governing body the discretion of allotting a maximum of 30% of the total funds held in the trust each year to be utilized for development of land acquired for recreation and conservation purposes “Development” is defined as any improvement to land acquired for recreation and conservation purposes designed to expand and enhance its utilization for those purposes.

A “yes” vote on this referendum question will mean that the voters are in favor of an option that up to 30% of the balance of the “Lafayette Township Open Space, Recreation, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund” may be utilized for development costs to improve township preserved properties. The Open Space Advisory Committee recommended that the Township Committee place this issue on the ballot to determine if Lafayette is in favor of adding another purpose that the trust fund proceeds may be used for. Several Sussex County towns, as well as the county, have taken similar action to add development as a potential use of these trust funds.

Please look for this question on your ballots in November.

Kevin O’Leary

Lafayette Open Space Advisory Committee