Town Urged to Preserve Barnegat Boulevard Tract
A former chairman of Barnegat Township’s Open Space Committee is urging township officials to preserve a 21-acre wooded tract along Barnegat Boulevard. Speaking before the township committee during the public portion, David Moore said the tract is adjacent to Lochiel Creek County Park and features both steep slopes and vernal ponds.
Moore said that nearly a decade ago, the open space group worked with Ocean County to jointly fund the purchase of this parcel, which extends from the intersection of Bengal Boulevard/ Rosehill Road (while heading toward West Bay Avenue) along the right side of Barnegat Boulevard and past the for-sale sign at the top of the hill.
“Now the county has reached an agreement with the owners to purchase and preserve these valuable woods with no town contribution other than their agreement to proceed,” he said. “If an agreement is not reached, the county will focus their preservation efforts elsewhere.”
Moore said preserving the area would result in numerous benefits.
“This forested tract helps to naturally clean storm water runoff into the pristine Lochiel Creek before it flows into Barnegat Bay,” he said. “Preservation will help limit congestion as the approved development plan includes multiple entrance points onto Barnegat Boulevard. These woods provide critical habitat to a myriad of wildlife and a contiguous corridor to the park. Town approval will help to preserve the very nature of Barnegat and take advantage of Ocean County efforts to pay for it.”
Moore said the property owner, Lafayette Associates, had at one time received zoning board approval to erect a 12-home development at the site, but ground was never broken.
“Lafayette does not do the construction, but they’ll look for a builder, and builders apparently are not finding the slope of the land as a suitable area for development,” said Moore. “So they’re looking to sell.”
Moore said township committee members have expressed reluctance to any agreement since they are giving up the $12,000 to 15,000 in yearly property tax revenue.
“But once the 12 houses are built, the tax revenue will not cover the cost of services,” he said. “If building houses lowers property taxes, why have our taxes not gone down?”
Township Administrator Martin Lisella said that when he was on the township committee in 2009, there was a liaison to the open space group.
“They were offering $3 million for the tract,” said Lisella. “With my background in real estate, I knew that no way was that property with that much. The county is offering around $600,000.”
Mayor Albert Bille said he and Lisella have set up a meeting with Lafayette representatives.
“After those discussions, we’ll bring it back to the committee for a full vote,” said Bille.
— Eric Englund