Council explores open-space possibilities

The township has plans to acquire two new open spaces.

Moorestown is already home to 12 open spaces. At the most recent meeting of township council, members discussed two more sites that may be added to that list.

First up was an ordinance authorizing the township to accept a portion of the Laurel Creek Mews Development. Township attorney Kevin Aberant explained the deal has been in place since 2003. The planning board authorized a subdivision by the developer, Toll Brothers, with the condition that a portion of the land be donated to the township. 

“Toll Brothers received a density bonus, meaning they were able to develop a few more houses by agreeing to dedicate this property to the township,” Aberant said. 

He explained that the agreement dictates the land be kept open and not developed, but how that land is utilized is entirely up to council. The attorney said it’s within the confines of the agreement to allow passive recreation at the site.

Councilwoman Lisa Petriello inquired about how the township plans to maintain the newly acquired space. Township Manager Thomas Merchel said the township is using its open-space fund for biannual mowing of some of Moorestown’s open spaces in the spring and fall. Council can decide whether to have a trailer go through the Mews Development twice a year or just let the land grow. 

According to Merchel, the space is now maintained by a farmer finishing up his work on the land. Councilwoman Victoria Napolitano suggested council could also pursue continuation of that use as a possible option moving forward.

Council also authorized purchasing a portion of The Flying Feather Farm on Garwood Road. That space will be acquired using funds from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program. 

Merchel explained that a bond ordinance will be introduced at the next council meeting to put the funds in place, with a settlement date to follow. As it stands, Green Acres will contribute 50 percent of the land’s appraisal cost, and the county will contribute 25 percent of the appraised value. The township is responsible for the remaining 25 percent as well as interest. 

The township is required to apply that money up front and will work with Burlington County and the Green Acres Program for reimbursement.

“It does take a long time for them to pay it back,” Merchel noted. 

Maura Dey, chairperson of the open-space committee, said while its members are thrilled to add a piece of Flying Feather to the township’s open-space roster, they’re also eager to acquire another piece of the land. The committee’s negotiations with the current owners resulted in a scenario where the land would be deed restricted by the township, but the family would continue to own the land. 

“We would like to wholeheartedly keep pursuing it,” Dey said.

Councilman Michael Locatell said his understanding is that right now, the township and the family are not at the same price point. Aberant discouraged council from commenting further given the matter is still under negotiation. 

The next meeting of Moorestown Township Council will take place on Monday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m.