Morris County Voters (NJ) Would Fund Open Space

Morristown, NJ, 7/26/01: A new public opinion poll commissioned by the Trust for Public Land (TPL) indicates that if given the opportunity this fall, Morris County voters would overwhelmingly support a ballot referendum to increase the county’s Open Space and Farmland Trust Fund. In the TPL poll, voters were asked whether they would support a two cent increase in the county open space levy, which would generate an additional $10 million a year for land protection. By more than a two to one margin (67% yes, 24% no, 9% unsure), they said they would vote for the increase.

Morris County’s trust fund currently raises about $15 million per year to preserve open space and farmland from development around the county, through an earmarked levy of 3 cents per $100 of assessed property value. A two-cent increase in the levy would translate to $20 a year for each $100,000 in assessed property value.

“These are very encouraging numbers,” said TPL conservation finance manager Chris Wells. “Our results clearly indicate that the people of Morris County want to see more land protected they and are ready to pay for it.”

The survey found that support for a referendum to increase the county open space fund cuts across party lines. A two-cent increase in the trust fund was supported by 65% of registered republicans, 71% of registered independents and 67% of registered democrats.

Support for a referendum was also strong across the age spectrum, with people in the 35-49 year old demographic registering the highest support (80% for, 13% against). Support for an increase in open space funding was higher among women, 70% of whom supported a two-cent increase versus 63% of men.

The TPL poll looked at how Morris County voters would like to spend any increase in the county open space fund. Land conservation to protect water quality topped the list. Eighty-nine percent of respondents said that protecting drinking water sources was a “very important” use of county open space funds, and 80% said protecting water quality in lakes, rivers and streams should be a top priority. Preserving currently undeveloped open space also received strong support, with 63% of those surveyed saying it was a very important use of county open space dollars. Preserving the county’s remaining farmland was also ranked as very important by 60% of respondents.

The TPL survey was conducted by Raritan Associates, a private public opinion research firm based in Morristown. The countywide survey was conducted by telephone with 300 likely voters, and has a margin of error of +/- 5 percent.

The Trust for Public Land is a national non-profit land conservation organization that specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiation, public finance, and law to protect land for people. TPL conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in communities and to protect natural and historic resources for future generations. Founded in 1972, and based in San Francisco, TPL has protected more than 1 million acres of land valued at $1.8 billion. With its state office in Morristown, the Trust for Public Land has protected more than 13,500 acres of land in New Jersey.