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Open Space Funding

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In January 1999 the Open Space Advisory Committee (OSAC) met for the first time. The Township Council established this committee in order that the Council would have a group of citizen volunteers and Township staff that was charged with developing and implementing a plan for preserving open space, farmland and historical properties.

The OSAC was formed after the voters approved a referendum in November 1998 that authorized the Council to collect up to three cents per hundred dollars of assessed value on all property in the Township and deposit it in an "Open Space Trust Fund." Taxes collected in this trust fund can only be utilized for "open space." However, as used in the Ordinance that established the Open Space Trust Fund, the term "open space" means, "Any land acquired, developed, maintained, or utilized for recreation and/or conservation purposes, for farmland or farmland preservation purposes, or for historic preservation purposes." 

In November 2001, voters approved an amendment to the previous referendum by increasing the amount that the Township could collect from three cents per hundred to five cents per hundred dollars of assessed value. Currently, this open space tax brings over $4 million into the trust fund every year. 

In addition to collecting the open space tax from the Township's citizens, the Township has been very aggressive in pursuing other funding sources to preserve open space, farmland and historical properties.  Each year, Somerset County has a competitive program in which it funds the best municipal open space projects in Somerset County.  Franklin Township has been successful, every year, in having its projects funded.  To date the Township has received $600,000 through this county program.  And in 2001, the Township applied to the county for a special project grant towards a large greenway that the Township was acquiring in the southern portion of the Township. Somerset County funded this special project by awarding the Township an additional $1 million—bring the total of County funding for open space in Franklin to $1.6 million. 

In 2001, the State of New Jersey 's Green Acres program approved the Township's Open Space Plan and awarded the Township a "Planning Incentive Grant."  Under this state grant program, Franklin Township has been approved for regular state funding in the form of matching grants. To date, the Township has received over $2.8 million dollars in grants from the State Green Acres program. 

In 2001, the State Agricultural Development Committee (SADC) also approved the Township's "Farmland Preservation Plan" and, since then, has awarded the Township $6.267 million dollars to purchase the development rights on 11 farms.   Additionally, Somerset County has contributed another $1.6 million to the Township’s farmland preservation efforts.  In December of 2007, The Township again applied for a new SADC farmland preservation program, and if the Township’s application is approved, it could result in over $15 million in SADC-funding and another $5 million in County-funding for farmland preservation over the next 10 years.

Since 2001, the Township has preserved 13 farms, totaling over 357 acres.  Also,  Somerset County has  preserved several other  farms in the Township--so that the Township now has over 770 acres of preserved farmland and another 213 acres of land on which there is a conservation easement that prevents any further development on that land. 

Few municipalities in New Jersey have been as aggressive in pursuing the preservation of open space and farmland and in securing outside sources of funding, as has Franklin Township. Though many may lament all the development that daily changes the landscape, Franklin Township has the financial means to preserve significant amounts of property in the coming years.