Borough planner, Joseph Burgis of Burgis Associates, was retained by the Mayor and Council on behalf of the Planning Board to prepare an to specifically address the inconsistency between the Recreation and Open Space element, the Land Use Plan and the borough's Recreation and Open Space inventory (ROSI) that is currently on file with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).
The purpose of the draft amendment, presented to the Planning Board Monday, is to amend the borough's Recreation and Open Space plan element to ensure and maintain consistency among all of the borough's planning documents.
The most recent master plan, adopted in 2004, was re-examined in a 2010 report. Burgis said that the re-examination is only effective if noticed and filed with the county, and after discussion, Planning Board Chairman, Angelo DeCarlo, confirmed that it was. Board attorney Richard Abrahamsen said the the Re-examination is an extension of the 2004 Master Plan.
Additionally, there is a separate Recreation and Open Space Inventory identifying the borough land that is undeveloped and held for either recreation or conservation purposes. However, there are properties obtained by the borough that appear on the ROSI, but are not identified in the Recreation and Open Space element of the master plan. This is one of the inconsistencies that the amendment being prepared by Burgis seeks to correct.
Burgis said he will update the draft amendment to include all open space and recreation properties that the town owns, but does not appear in the 2004 master plan.
The undeveloped properties in ROSI that are held by the borough for recreation and conservation purposes are located between Columbia Street and the Hackensack River, south of River Edge Road. They include wetlands, the New Milford Woods and the Mansaldo property--a cluster of properties located behind the PSEG substation at the end of Henley Avenue. According to Mayor Ann Subrizi, the Monsaldo family approached the town to purchase the properties at a "bargain basement price." Although a percentage was funded by the Bergen County Open Space fund, the balance of the purchase came out of New Milford's Open Space fund.
New Milford Woods was purchased with Bergen County Open Space funds (50 percent), New Milford Open space funds (25 percent) and Green Acres funds (25 percent).
The draft amendment also points out that municipal tax records show four borough owned vacant properties encumbered by the by wetlands that are located in the 100 year flood plain located on the banks of the Hackensack River on Columbia Street near the intersection of Henley Avenue. These properties are not referenced in the borough's Recreation and Open Space Plan as sites appropriate for conservation, nature center, recreation or open space.
At the request of DeCarlo, Burgis will also include verbiage regarding the acquisition of the flood prone properties through FEMA and Blue Acres funding. The funding for these properties comes at no cost to the borough--75 percent of the funding is coming from FEMA and 25 percent of the funding is coming from Blue Acres.
Subrizi informed Burgis that although all of the properties under consideration are from willing sellers, the addresses of these properties cannot be disclosed at this time because the deals are not yet finalized. However, she did indicate that the properties are not grouped in the same neighborhood.
"Some of the properties are located by the [Hirschfield] Brook and some by the [Hackensack] River," Subrizi said.
Burgis told the Planning Board that the amendment will be extremely helpful when the borough seeks open space funding.
"The state is encouraging municipalities to have open space and recreation lands on a database to assist them in determining which municipalities should get funding," he said.
An updated draft will be prepared by Burgis for next week’s meeting with the intent of noticing the public hearing for the July 24th meeting. No action will be taken until the public hearing.
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