Major Development Finally Halted on Francisco Farm
Today The Trust for Public Land announced the acquisition of 260 acres of Francisco Farm, helping the Sussex County community save a local treasure from the threat of large-scale development.
Francisco Farm, also known as the Beazer Homes development site, is a former dairy farm located primarily within Andover Borough in New Jersey's Ridge and Valley region in southern Sussex County. The purchase will prevent a large scale development in this mostly rural area and safeguard water quality in the Pequest River Watershed, which supplies water to many parts of New Jersey. It will also add significant acreage to Kittatinny Valley State Park, preserving the farm's abundant wildlife, pristine streams, green fields, wooded areas, and sweeping views of surrounding hills.
The development of Francisco Farm was debated for more than 20 years, and in 2011, The Trust for Public Land worked with Andover Borough to ask voters to approve an open space tax to acquire Francisco Farm and protect the land from future development. Eighty-four percent of voters approved the tax, and the funds raised were essential for completing the Francisco Farm purchase.
"The Development Plan that was terminated as a result of this preservation effort will allow Andover Borough to maintain its quaint and historic character and our residents will continue to enjoy the small town atmosphere that has existed for over 100 years," said Andover Borough Mayor John Morgan. "We're a small Borough – there are only 606 of us, and now we know this beautiful land will be protected."
The majority of Francisco Farm is located in Andover Borough, but the property includes 46 acres in Andover Township and two acres in Green Township. The land was vulnerable because it lies just outside of the New Jersey Highlands Protection Area boundary and was approved for development of as many as 590 residential units and 285,000 square feet of commercial/retail space. "Andover Borough is a small community that came together in a big way to conserve Francisco Farm," said Kathy Haake, project manager for The Trust for Public Land. "We thank the residents who took an active role in opposing the development, as well as the public and private funders who supported the project."
The organization Save Rural Andover Borough has been working to prevent the development of Francisco Farm for the past decade.
"Excessively large developments throughout Sussex County are changing our rural quality of life," said Fred DiRenzo, founder of Save Rural Andover Borough. "Finally, we know Andover Borough will remain the quaint town it has always been."
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Green Acres Program was the project's lead funder and a key part of saving Francisco Farm.
"Protecting Francisco Farm would never have been possible without the investment of the Green Acres Program," said Anthony Cucchi, New Jersey and Pennsylvania State Director for The Trust for Public Land. "Towns and counties across the state have voiced their support for continued funding for the program, and we are working to ensure that it will remain a source of conservation funding in New Jersey."
The purchase of Francisco Farm was facilitated by The Trust for Public Land. Public funding was provided by the Green Acres Program; the Andover Borough Open Space, Recreation, Farmland, and Historic Preservation Trust Fund; the Sussex County Farmland, Recreation, and Open Space Trust Fund; and the Land Conservancy of New Jersey. Private funding was provided by the Victoria Foundation, the Johanette Wallerstein Institute, and the Union Foundation.
"Preserving these lands ensures a continued high quality of drinking water for state residents, while safeguarding habitat for many plant and animal species, enhancing recreational opportunities for our residents, and raising the quality of life in our state,' said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin. "We are grateful for the community's support for the protection of Francisco Farm and the expansion of Kittatinny Valley State Park."
The property's location within the Pequest River Watershed and its close proximity to Kittatinny Valley State Park made the farm a high priority for conservation. Development would have put a strain on the area's natural water resources and put them at risk for pollution. Sussex Properties, Inc., the previous owner of the farm, had a permit to release treated water into the Andover Junction Brook as part of its development plan.
Of the 260 acres purchased, 222 acres will be added to Kittatinny Valley State Park, 12 acres will be used by Andover Borough for recreational purposes, and five acres will be used by Sussex County for future road widening. The remaining 21 acres were sold for non-open space use to help offset the purchase price. Of those 21 acres, 17 were sold to Andover Borough for future use, and four acres were sold to neighboring homeowners to expand their personal property. The twenty acres of Francisco Farm that include the farmhouse and other buildings were retained by Sussex Properties and will be sold at a later date.