The Brick Township council on Tuesday night unanimously voted in favor of approving a bonding measure that will finance the initial acquisition of Breton Woods, a forested area off Drum Point Road that had been targeted by a developer for a 59-home community.
The township and Ocean County are partnering to purchase the property for a total of $8,550,000, though little – if any – of the expenditure will be borne by Brick municipal taxpayers. The township will be responsible for $1,710,000 and the county will contribute $6,840,000. The council previously passed a resolution that allows the municipal government to access $1.2 million in funding to offset the cost of the township’s share, and expect additional funding through a nonprofit land preservation trust. Township officials are confident that the funding request will be approved by Green Acres, an office within the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The township has also agreed to be responsible for the maintenance of the property, and will set aside six acres near the Osbornville Elementary School for a playground. The playground will be operated by the township – not the school district – and will be open to the general public. Township officials say they have already met with neighboring residents to take suggestions and alleviate concerns over the playground space, which represents about 20 percent of the property.
The preservation effort faced opposition from one resident who told council members the township “should not be in real estate,” but otherwise garnered support from residents who attended Tuesday night’s council meeting.
“Thank you for stepping up and lobbying to acquire this land,” said resident Cheryl Olson. “There are people, of course, who are not for it, but many more people are.”
Willie deCamp, founder of the local environmental organization Save Barnegat Bay, praised residents for becoming involved in the campaign to block the development. The organization helped organize residents while the now-ill-fated proposal was making its way through the approval process.
“It’s really helpful to the environment for many reasons, including the water quality of Barnegat Bay,” said deCamp. “Many neighbors are very, very grateful for this.”
The 59 homes were to be constructed by D.R. Horton, a Texas-based residential development company. The property had been donated decades ago to Visitation Roman Catholic Church, however church-owned lands are controlled by the Diocese of Trenton rather than local parishes. The diocese previously proposed a cemetery for the 31-acre property before designating Horton as a contract purchaser of the property. Local and county officials negotiated with Horton to purchase the property, which will be permanently restricted as a conservation area once deeded to the county Natural Lands Trust and the municipal government.
The Ocean County Commissioners are expected to approve the final purchase at their meeting Wednesday.