Successful ballot initiative will help stop sprawl, save open space, drinking water, farms, parks
At General Van Fleet Park in Fort Lee, the Governor was joined by the Coalition for Conservation, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Brad Campbell, Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus, and local athletes and students as he thanked New Jersey’s voters for approving the measure.
“Today is a good day for our families, for our environment and for our future,” said McGreevey. “Yesterday, the public voted against sprawl and in support of open space, farms and parks. The passage of Public Question No. 1 is a great victory for not only our drinking water and open space, but most importantly, for our children and generations to come. Thank you for your support.”
Yesterday, voters approved an additional $150 million for open space purchases and community park improvements. Public Question No. 1, a constitutional amendment, will increase the bonding capacity of the Garden State Preservation Trust to $1.15 billion, an increase of $150 million from the $1 billion voters approved in 1998. The increased capacity will place no additional tax burden on New Jersey taxpayers. The sales tax dedicated in 1998 to pay off Garden State Preservation Trust bonds will cover these additional bonds by taking advantage of today’s lower interest rates.
Also yesterday, voters approved 32 out of 38 local open space ballot questions, including the two county questions in Bergen and Hudson and 30 out of 36 local questions.
Instrumental in the initiative’s passage was the newly formed Coalition for Conservation, a broad base of statewide and local groups representing land conservation, parks and recreation, and farmland preservation interests.
Michael Catania, Chairman of the Coalition for Conservation said, "Once again, the voters of New Jersey have demonstrated their concern for maintaining our quality of life by preserving open space, farmland and community parks. On behalf of the Coalition, Id like to thank all those who supported Public Question # 1 and the benefits it will provide to communities across the Garden State."
With the passage of Public Question No. 1, at least $50 million will be used to create and improve parks in cities and suburbs as part of Governor McGreevey’s reforms to the Green Acres program. In addition, a minimum of $50 million would be spent on open space purchases and farmland preservation in the Highlands, a critical environmental resource that is the source of drinking water for more than a third of New Jersey’s residents.
"Voters yesterday couldnt have been more clear in their support for Governor McGreeveys open space initiatives," said Campbell. "A large portion of the extra $150 million voters approved will help local governments create and upgrade community parks like this one, parks that are so important to the quality of life in our urban and suburban communities."
"New Jersey is a national leader in farmland preservation, with more than 13 percent of the states agricultural land permanently protected," said Kuperus. "The passage of Public Question No. 1 allows us to build on that success to save even more farms, protect the quality of life in our communities and keep New Jersey green and growing."
Last year, the State could provide only $1 in Green Acres funding for every $8 requested by local governments to acquire and upgrade local parks. This additional money will help meet New Jersey’s growing demand for open space.
In 1998, voters approved a constitutional dedication of $98 million annually from sales and use tax revenue over the next 30 years to provide a stable source of funding for open space purchases, farmland preservation and historic preservation. Currently, the state may borrow up to $1 billion over the first 10 years, using the $98 million to pay off the debt. With today’s low interest rates, $98 million is sufficient to cover payments on $1.15 billion in debt, allowing the state to expand its open space and farmland preservation efforts.
In his State of the State speech, Governor McGreevey set a goal of creating or improving 200 community parks. The Green Acres program now places a higher priority on acquiring and upgrading parks in communities with at least 35,000 residents or population densities greater than 5,000 people per square mile.
Fort Lee, with a population of 35,461, is an example of this focus. Already, $600,000 in loans and grants for improvements to Van Fleet and Monument parks has been approved by DEP and the Green Acres program, and is awaiting final approval by the legislature.
“Since taking office, we have worked hard to protect open space and preserve farms all over New Jersey,” said McGreevey. “We’ve acquired over 1,977 acres of open space and over 1,160 acres of farmland per month since January 2002.”
Since Governor McGreevey took office last year, the state Green Acres program has acquired 43,492 acres of open space, and the State Agriculture Development Committee has preserved 312 farms covering 25,676 acres. This includes 216 acres of farmland and more than 800 acres of open space in Bergen County since January 2002. The Governor has also placed the highest protection possible—C1 designation—on 40 percent of the state’s drinking water, including the Oradell Reservoir, which serves 750,000 Bergen and Hudson residents. Posted by: Staff at rt23.com
November 06, 2003
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