Ocean County (NJ) voters approve local open space funds

Ocean County, NJ: As they went to the polls yesterday, voters in Brick, Dover and Ocean Townships faced an important choice, and it wasn’t only who to elect as the next president of the United States or junior senator from New Jersey. They also had to decide whether it was worth raising their own town taxes to preserve local open space. With the votes counted, it is clear that local voters saw protecting open space as a good investment. All three measures passed by large margins.

“We are thrilled that voters in Brick, Dover and Ocean Townships voted so overwhelmingly to preserve open space,” said Chris Wells, public finance manager at the Trust for Public Land, a national non-profit land conservation organization. “Residents of these towns really want to manage growth and preserve their quality of life, and I think they saw local open space funds as an important tool to achieve those goals.” said Wells.

The open space measure in Brick Township passed overwhelmingly, with three out of four voters approving the referendum. The yes vote authorizes the township to levy a designated tax of one cent per $100 of assessed value to fund the preservation of open space in Brick. The levy will raise approximately $450,000 per year. The referendum in Dover Township also passed by a wide margin, with 71% of voters saying yes to an open space tax of 1.5 cents per $100 of assessed value that will generate over $850,000 a year for land conservation. The Ocean Township measure, which authorized a 1.5 cent open space tax, passed comfortably with a 62% yes vote. The levy will raise roughly $45,000 a year for local open space protection.

The referenda in Brick and Dover were promoted heavily in the final weeks before election day. The Trust for Public Land, working closely with local advocates in both towns, developed and funded a newspaper ad campaign that ran the final weekend before in election day. The ads, combined with intensive public education efforts by the town governments and get out the vote work by local campaign committees, helped achieve a high turnout of “yes” voters for the measures.

Brick Township Mayor Joseph C. Scarpelli said, “Over the past six years, the township has placed a high priority on preserving open space. By voting yes on this important public question, the voters have decisively told us to continue this course for our community.”

“This is the most important public policy initiative for the good of Dover Township in our lifetimes,” said Dover Mayor J. Mark Mutter. “Personally, I am gratified by the absolutely overwhelming voter approval of the measure.”

The Trust for Public Land’s Public Finance Program has helped states, counties and municipalities secure approximately $21 billion in new funding for parks and land conservation since 1994 and is currently in the middle of a five-year effort to help communities generate $20 billion in conservation funding. TPL played a central role in promoting Ocean County’s 1997 open space referendum. During yesterday’s election, voters across the country voted on ballot initiatives totaling more than $4 billion for land conservation. For up to date results for open space referenda nationwide, visit www.tpl.org/LandVote2000.

Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization that conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in our communities and to protect our natural and historic resources for future generations. With its state office in Morristown, TPL has protected more than 13,000 acres of land in New Jersey, including over 6,000 acres in Ocean County.