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Environmental Commission endorses $400M state preservation referendum

Commission recommends open space preservation referendum to Township Committee.

Cranford’s Environmental Commission agreed to recommend a state referendum supporting $400 million for open space preservation to the Township Committee at a meeting last night.

Public Question No. 1” or The Green Acres, Water Supply and Floodplain Protection, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Bond Act of 2009, calls for the state to issue bonds for land purchasing and preservation. The act would cost households $10 per year for preservation efforts. Voters will get their say in the November 3 election.

If passed, $400 million would be invested in the New Jersey Green Acres Program, as well as in farmland and historic preservation. Of that $400 million, $218 million would go to Green Acres, a program that provides grants and loans to acquire land for state parks and wildlife management areas; $146 million to farmland preservation; $24 million for Blue Acres, a program administered by the Green Acres program that acquires flood-prone properties; and $12 million for historic preservation.

Even though the resolution to endorse the referendum was adopted by the commission, opinions were mixed.

“At some point somebody has to say ‘we have to stop spending money’,” said Lynda Feder, president of the Hanson Park Conservancy and alternate member of the commission.

“It’s a good investment,” said Stephen Jandoli, Green Acres supervising program specialist and member of the commission. “We lose about 12,000 to 15,000 acres of land per year to development. That might have gone down recently, but the development industry is ravenous. When the recession is over they’re all going to come out.”

Chairman Nelson Dittmar, asked the commission to consider two questions before voting. “The first is ‘Does this commission support recommending this to the committee?’ and the second is ‘Will the committee entertain it?’”

“I don’t know how the committee will vote,” said Mark Smith, deputy mayor and commissioner of public works.

“Right now we’re seeing good values for land purchases and bangs for our bucks - getting not just one park built, but three or four for the same money,” said Jandoli. “People like bonding because these lands are being built for us but also for future generations, and it’s only fair if future generations help pay for these lands. The costs will be spread out.”

“We need not only open space but trees,” said Mary Reilly, Green Team leader and associate member of the commission. “We’re the most densely populated state in the union. The more balanced we can get [regarding the carbon cycle] the better.”

The New Jersey Assembly and Senate approved the referendum in June of 2009. Governor Jon Corzine authorized the statewide ballot question last month.

The Environmental Commission hosts monthly public meetings. The next one will start at 7:30 p.m. at the Cranford Community Center on Walnut Avenue on October 5.

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