“This proposed purchase is a proactive decision that will provide benefits to the borough for many years into the future,” Mayor Robert Mezzo said.
The land is four contiguous parcels that Mezzo described as pristine and undeveloped. In total, he said, the land is assessed at $950,000. Under the proposal, the borough would pay $150,000 installments with no interest over the next five fiscal years for the land. The money would come from the recurring capital account and the borough is pursuing grant opportunities to offset the costs.
The next step for the borough is to execute a sales agreement. Mezzo said the agreement is expected to be finalized this week. The agreement will allow for the borough to perform its due diligence on the property, including environmental testing, prior to closing the deal, he said.
Mezzo explained the borough was approached by an attorney representing the numerous individual owners of the estate several months ago regarding the borough’s interests in the land. After discussing the matter for the past several months in executive sessions, the board unanimously supported the purchase.
One benefit to buying the open space, Mezzo said, is avoiding a significant residential development being built on the property. In the past, he said, a residential subdivision was proposed for the land. It’s estimated that 75 homes could be built on the land.
Such a development, Mezzo said, would put additional financial burden on the borough whether its sewers that would need to be installed or an increase of students in the school system.
Mezzo said previous borough boards have passed on such opportunities, which led to the development of residential subdivisions in the borough, including in the areas of Meadowbrook Place and Fawn Meadow.
“While purchasing land often results in upfront costs, the long-term expenses associated with the residential development of such properties pales in comparison,” said Mezzo, who commended the board for supporting the purchase.
The borough is also reviewing a similar proposal for the former Wilmot Farms property near the Oxford border, according to Mezzo.
What will happen with the 146 acres of land if the deal is closed remains up in the air for now. The idea of building athletic fields on the property has been raised.
“There’s no specific plan for the property yet,” Mezzo said. “It certainly is an attractive piece of property for athletic fields and other public uses.”
See Mayor Robert Mezzo’s blog post on the land purchase here.