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Additional Acreage to Be Protected from Urban Sprawl

By Barbara A. Preston l JANUARY 12, 2021

More of the state’s dwindling agricultural land would be protected from development under a pair of bills sponsored by Senator Kip Bateman (R-District 16), who represents Montgomery Township and Rocky Hill in the NJ State Senate.

“When farmland is preserved, it helps protect our water supply, continues the Garden State’s farming traditions, and limits over-development,” Bateman said. “These bills represent an investment in New Jersey’s future that will pay dividends for generations to come.”

Sunflowers growing on preserved farmland in Skillman, along Route 518. The land is preserved from future development.

Bill S3227 appropriates $3,763,625 from constitutionally dedicated corporation business tax (CBT) revenues to the State Agriculture Development Committee for grants to certain nonprofit organizations for farmland preservation purposes. If approved by the Assembly and Senate, a nearby project D&R Greenway project in Hopewell would be eligible for funding, according to the online version of the bill. Trap Rock Industries runs a 166-acre site in Hopewell Township that will become a park in the future.

Mercer County will take ownership of the quarry from Trap Rock in 2023. The quarry is known as Moores Station Quarry off Route 29. It will cease operations after more than a century. The site is more than 200 feet deep and 2,000 feet across. It is adjacent to the 1,000-acre Baldpate Mountain preserve, and it seems it could accommodate an agricultural use in the future. The planning for the project has only just begun.

The other bill, S3226, would appropriate $29,886,172 from various farmland preservation funds to the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) for certain farmland preservation purposes. Basically, state money would be used to “pay the cost of acquisition ... of development easements on ... farmland, to provide grants to counties and municipalities for up to 80 percent of the cost of acquisition of fee simple titles to farmland, and to provide grants to qualifying tax exempt nonprofit organizations for up to 50 percent of the cost of acquisition of fee simple titles to farmland, for farmland preservation purposes for projects approved as eligible.”

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Bateman, who is a primary sponsor of the bill, explained in a press release that “the preservation of farmland is vital in the nation’s most densely populated state. New Jerseyans have overwhelmingly supported efforts to save farms from development, recognizing the importance of agriculture to our state legacy. This legislation will allow future generations to appreciate the many contributions of farmers and the impact of farms and open space on the quality of life in our communities.”

Montgomery Township, which has a rich agricultural past, is a leader in preserving open space, farmland, and scenic vistas with a network of public hiking trails. The township has nearly 8,000 acres of existing and proposed open space, representing 40 percent of the land in the township. The state’s Green Acres program has helped provided a steady, secure funding source dedicated to preserving land in Montgomery Township, according to the municipal website.


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