By: Joseph Harvie, Staff Writer
South Brunswick Post, 05/18/2006
Preservation programs were touted at a May 11 meeting between about
25 township farmers and county and state officials.
Middlesex County and the state have
their eyes on South Brunswick.
More specifically, they're looking for
farmland and owners willing to preserve it forever through state and
county preservation programs. The county runs an Easement
Purchase program and the state runs a Direct Easement Purchases and a
Fee Simple Purchase program.
"It improves the agricultural economy
and improves the overall beauty of the area," said Linda Busch,
administrator of the County Agricultural Development Board. "So it's
good for everyone."
Ms. Busch, along with Gary Pohorely, senior planner of the State
Agricultural Development Committee, met with about 25 township farmers
on May 11 to discuss how the preservation programs work.
Through the county Easement Purchase program farm owners sell their
farms' development rights and retain ownership of the land, and agree
to deed restrictions that allowonly agricultural uses on the property.
The state Direct Easement Purchases is similar to the county program
where farmers sell the development rights to their land and have
restrictions placed on their deeds. Through the state Fee Simple
Purchase program, the State Agricultural Development Committee
purchases a farm from an owner, places deed restrictions on the land so
that it will be preserved as a farm and then sells the farm at an
auction to the highest bidder.
The county and state have several sets of criteria for a farm to meet
before it can be considered for the programs, including the size, the
quality of the soil and its proximity to other preserved farms.
The programs also take into account
whether or not the farms are in danger of being developed, Ms.
Ms. Busch said all of the criteria is scored on a points system and is
evaluated by the County Agricultural Development Board, made up of
county employees and citizens, which determines what parcels are right
for the program.
"The farm has to be a minimum of 10 acres," Ms. Busch said. "But we do
make some exceptions."
Farms that are between 8.5 and 9.8 acres are also considered for
preservation but would have to pass highly on the other criteria, Ms.
The state has similar size requirements for parcels, but unlike the
county it breaks them down into categories.
Farms that are 59 acres are considered "priority" farms for
preservation, ones between 43 and 59 acres are considered
"alternative," and those less than 43 acres are considered "other," Mr.
Mr. Pohorely said there are some small differences between applying
through the state and the county. He said that the state makes the
owner give a price per acre for the farm.
He said that after the application is filed and accepted by the state
Agricultural Development Committee, the state makes the owner sign an
agreement that he or she will not sell the farm for six months.
"This way it isn't sold while we are having the farm appraised," Mr.
He said that the state does two appraisals on the farms, which takes
about six months to complete. The county also does two appraisals, Ms.
Busch said. But, it does not ask the owner for a six-month, no-sell
contract during the appraisal period.
Ms. Busch encouraged township farmers to fill out the application for
"The money you get for the farm can be used to expand your operation,
reduce debt and reduce mortgage payments," Ms. Busch said. "Another
good reason is you have access to state and county grants."
She said that the farms in preservation are the only farms in the state
that qualify for state water and soil conservation grants.
In addition, Ms. Busch said preserved farms are the only ones allowed
to use irrigation systems in times of drought.
Land owner Barrie Barclay, who preserved about 22 acres on Orchardside
Drive in April, said the one thing he liked about entering the program
was that it was hands off.
"They did all of the work," Mr. Barclay said. "All it costs you is the
$40 registration fee."
He said the one thing he did not like about the program was how long
the process took.
"It took over three years," Mr. Barclay said. "But the good thing is
there was no commitment until you sign that contract."
Ms. Busch said that at no time throughout the preservation process is
the farmer locked in until he signs a contract.
According to a list of farms preserved through Middlesex County's
Easement Purchase Program, New Jersey, the county and South Brunswick
have jointly purchased the development rights to 375.51 acres of
farmland in the township for about $6.3 million.
The first farm preserved in the township was Edward and Joyce Barclay's
69.21-acre Dey Road farm. The state, township and Middlesex County
purchased the farm in 1993 for $539,869.20, according to the list.
Then in 1995 the three entities preserved the 197.8-acre Dey farm on
Dey Road for $1.6 million. In 2004 the groups purchased the development
rights to the 10.8-acre Farrington Farms on Davidsons Mill Road for
$180,400. Later that year the 74.9-acre Von Thun Farm on Ridge Road was
preserved for $3.69 million, according to the list.
Last month the state, county and township preserved 22.8 acres of
farmland on Orchardside Drive, near the township's border with
Plainsboro from Barrie and Geraldine Barclay for $827,349, according to
Ms. Bush said the county is in negotiations to purchase the development
rights to 149 additional acres on Orchardside Drive from the Barclay
family, of which Mr. Barclay is trustee.
Mr. Pohorely said the state is trying to preserve land throughout the
state, and currently doesn't have any applications from Middlesex
"We are looking to preserve farms in
Middlesex County," Mr. Pohorely said. "We have 20 farms in
Hunterdon County but we want to diversify our preservation efforts
throughout the state."
At the meeting, farmers also raised concerns about the Township Council
creating the R-6 zone, which would allow one house to be built on
Mayor Gambatese said the township created the zone but did not
implement it anywhere, yet. He said the
township has been eyeing land owned by the N.J. Turnpike Authority in
the right-of-way of Route 92 in the southern section of the
township. He said down zoning that
land would ensure that if Route 92 is officially taken off the books
then the land could not be overdeveloped in the southern section
of the township.
Route 92 is a proposed 6.7-mile limited access toll highway that would
run from the Turnpike at Exit 8A to Route 1 at its intersection with
Ridge Road. In November the Turnpike Authority shifted $175 million of
the $181.5 million set aside for Route 92 to expand the Turnpike from
three lanes to six lanes in both directions from Exit 8A to Exit 5.
Other farmers at the meeting raised concerns about entering the program
and then discontinuing farming on the land after several years.
They wondered how the land would be assessed if farming had stopped.
They were concerned that if they leave the farm to their children and
they do not continue farming then they would have to pay higher taxes
on the property because it would no longer be farmable land.
In order to qualify for farmland assessment and farmer has to make $500
from the farm in a year, Ms. Busch said.
Mr. Pohorely said that if farming ceases on a parcel, the farm would
not be assessed as regular developable land, because it cannot be
developed. He said the taxes would probably be higher than that of
farmland but not by much. Ms. Busch said that since the county
program's inception in 1985, no one has stopped farming on preserved