Earlier this year, Somerset County and Bedminster Township, along with over seventy-five other governing bodies, endorsed the Green Acres, Water Supply and Floodplain Protection, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Act of 2009. Thus, adding their support to a coalition of more than “135 statewide, local and regional organizations ranging from sportsmen’s groups and environmental organizations to affordable housing and urban park advocates” that is driving “NJ’s Keep it Green Campaign.” Voter approval of Public Question #1 is what is needed to ensure we continue to preserve our parks, wildlife, farms, water, and history.
Preservation in Bedminster
As chairwoman of Bedminster’s Open Space-Farmland Preservation Committee, I have the pleasure of seeing first-hand just how valuable preservation is. Over the last twenty-five years, Bedminster has successfully preserved approximately 3,500 acres – 20% of the township. That total includes about twenty farms, three new active recreation parks, and 1,500 acres of natural, open spaces that will never be developed. Early on in our history of preservation, a brilliant $7.5 million Open Space purchase prevented what is now the Bridgewater Mall from being built where we currently enjoy River Road Park and The Robert J. Stahl Natural Area!
A Healthy Future is Possible
By approving this Preservation Act, we invest in a healthy future for our state and ourselves. “A study by the Centers for Disease Control found more than 25% more people exercised three or more days per week when they had access to parks and other outdoor places.” In these tight economic times that means, the Preservation Act can provide a natural exercise areas for an average of $10 per household annually, instead of having to spend $1,000 or more on a gym membership. (Madison Eagle 10/16/09)
The Preservation Act also protects our local food sources and those delicious farm stands we enjoy in and around town. It preserves habitat for diverse, including rare and declining, species of wildlife. It ensures our drinking water is clean and secured for years to come. It guarantees scenic areas like ours continue to attract the hikers, bikers, equestrians, fisherman, sports teams, and other enthusiasts who support local businesses while they enjoy their time here.
Keeping Property Taxes Low & Value High
Our own properties are also positively affected by preservation. Average home prices increase 16% when located near permanently preserved open space (NJCF). “Studies by the American Farmland Trust have shown that for every dollar residential development pays in taxes, it requires on average $1.19 in services. In contrast, farmland requires an average of only 37 cents in services for every dollar it pays in taxes.” Thus, open spaces requiring no municipal services and farmland requiring far less than they pay for help keep our property taxes low. (NorthJersey.com 10/20/09)
For all these reasons and many more, I urge NJ residents to vote yes to Public Question #1 on November 3rd!
UPDATE: Congratulations, NJ! We passed the referendum and now have over $400M to spend on preserving farmland, open space, waterways, and historical sites. W00t!