$3.1M for open space in Parsippany - Daily Record (11/22/06)

Jason

JORBA Board Member/Chapter Leader
JORBA.ORG
$3.1M for open space in Parsippany
MICHAEL DAIGLE DAILY RECORD

The efforts of Parsippany and East Hanover to purchase 1,611 acres of Troy Meadows Natural Area got a $3.1 million boost from the Morris County freeholders Tuesday, but the property's owner said that in order for a deal to be completed, several conditions must be met.

The freeholders approved the recommendations of the county preservation trust fund open space committee to commit $23.8 million to preserve 25 parcels totaling 2,405 acres countywide.

Included in that total is land for recreation, trails, parks, aquifer protection and a large chunk of Troy Meadows Natural Area.

The problem, said Len Fariello, a Hanover councilman and land manager for Wildlife Preserves Inc., longtime owner of Troy Meadows, is that Wildlife Preserves is not a willing seller. The company was not a party to the application sent to the county open space committee, and Fariello said, he only recently learned of its existence.

But Freeholder Jack Schrier said that discussions about the purchase of Troy Meadows have been ongoing for nearly all of his eight years on the freeholder board. He said that Fariello and Wildlife Preserves' attorney were in a meeting three months ago when there was a discussion about preserving the site without a sale.

Troy Meadows, a vast area of wetlands in Parsippany and East Hanover that is designated as National Natural Landmark, has been the target of preservation efforts for several years.

Parsippany, East Hanover and the Army Corps of Engineers have talked about buying the parcel, mainly as the centerpiece of flood control and water quality project to bring relief to towns along the eastern Morris County border in the Passaic River watershed.

The townships applied for funding to preserve two sections of the watershed, a 1,430-acre section along Routes 80 and 280, for $2.62 million, and for $359,500, a 179.75-acre East Hanover parcel that is part of the Troy Meadows-Hatfield Swamp section of the watershed in the Rockaway Neck section of the township.

The Troy Meadows offer floodwater storage protection, and critical habitat for threatened wildlife and endangered species.

Fariello said that Troy Meadows is just one piece of the nearly four square miles in the Passaic River watershed owned by Wildlife Preserves, all of it preserved.

"All of this was done at no cost to taxpayers, and much of it was acquired with funds donated from outside New Jersey," Fariello said. "Most of the land was purchased long before open space, floodplain and wetlands protection regulations were ever considered."

Schrier acknowledged the contributions made by Wildlife Preserves, but said that the company has sold off some of the meadows. Fariello said that the townships have also sold some of the property and that Morris County bought some of it.

Schrier said that the approval of the resolution -- from which he abstained because the measure contained funds for his hometown, Mendham Township -- supporting the open space recommendations did not seal the purchases, but just set aside the funds, which could start negotiations. Putting the money on the table could start talks among the Troy Meadows parties for real, he suggested.

Fariello said until Wildlife Preserves sees several conditions, including establishing a project area boundary, a good management plan, and means to provide active protection of Troy Meadows as a wildlife sanctuary, there was little chance of a deal.

He also insisted that the freeholders ensure that the property would not be taken by eminent domain.

Schrier said that negotiations between the parties could continue for up to two years, if necessary, and nothing in the resolution approved Tuesday supported taking the land by eminent domain.

He said that if through negotiations, eminent domain became part of the sale, the parties would have to return first to the open space trust for approval, and then that board would have to make a recommendation to the freeholders. The freeholders then would have to vote separately on the new recommendation, Schrier said.

Freeholder Director Margaret Nordstrom suggested if the townships and Wildlife Preserves asked, the freeholders could act as mediators. Schrier said the township, the Army Corps and Wildlife Preserves should begin to talk first.

Tom Kline, chairman of the preservation trust, said at the freeholder's morning meeting, that the 2006 purchases bring the total of preserved land in the county to 14,891 acres, with 4,099 acres pending. Kline said it is an area about the size of Randolph.

Schrier said other than the Troy Meadows applications, most of the parcels were smaller parcels at prices that reflect the high property values in Morris County. In 1992, county voters approved the open space tax, now at 4.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The tax generates about $40 million a year for the preservation of farmland, open space and historic sites.

Many of the parcels on the list connect or extend existing preserved land or trails, while others preserve open space in some of the more densely populated part of Morris County, will be used to provide active recreation sites, or offer aquifer protection.
 

anrothar

entirely thrilled
interesting situation. i had never heard of wildlife preserves inc, but i'm pretty glad that they exist, and have existed since before everyone else caught on. if the towns can meet his demands, especially as regards eminent domain and protecting wildlife, it would be a win/win/win situation.
 

NJ Jess

Active Member
humm

interesting indeed. Is there anything we can do,..write to someone, petition, etc to help the cause?
 
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