Federal, Gravel Hill roads farm

Monroe Township and Middlesex County are seeking nearly $600,000 from the state Agricultural Development Committee to purchase the rights to keep a 37-acre farmland from being sold any use except for farmland. 

Township officials are hoping to secure $1 million to protect a 37-acre tract of farmland from being developed in the future.

The Federal and Gravel Hill roads property is privately owned. The Monroe Township Council’s attempt, if successful, would prevent the land from being sold to a private developer for any use accept as farmland, under the Farmland Preservation program. The deed would remain with the property owner under the Farmland Preservation regulations.

The Middlesex County Farmland Preservation agency on behalf of Monroe submitted an application to the state Agricultural Development Committee for grant funding to purchase the development rights of the 37 acres.

Monroe Township and the county are hoping the state agency will continue past practices of awarding approximately 60 percent of funds for acquiring the development right. Monroe estimates that will cost $1 million, with the Township and county each contributing 20 percent, roughly $200,000.

However, multiple state officials confirmed that the final price has not been finalized. A communication spokesperson for the state Agricultural Development Committee said the agency does not comment on applications that have not been approved, but did confirm that the request is not in the final phase to determine an award amount.

“Monroe has long prioritized farmland preservation,” Mayor Gerald Tamburro said in a statement. “We have pledge to preserve more than 50 percent of our approximately 43-square-mile community and each year working in concert with the county and state, we advance that much closer.”

If this deal gets final approval, the Township will have nearly protected 8,000 acres of land, an initiative officials have supported.

“Our Township takes great pride in our rural landscape, one of the primary reasons it’s such a popular destination for both transplants and visitors,” said Council President Stephen Dalina.

The Township is also in the early stages of forming a task force to turn the New Jersey Training School for Boys into open space. Tamburro outlined his request in a letter to Governor Murphy last month and also asked for a representative from Murphy to serve on the task force.

“I must ensure that the disposition of the entire property must be accomplished thoughtfully and include the input of all stakeholders,” Tamburro wrote in his letter dated Feb. 9. “As the host for 151 years, we are the largest stakeholder and the township strongly desires the property remain as preserved farmland and open space.”

The Training School sits on 650 acres in the Township. Under Gov. Chris Christie, last year it was announced the facility and the Female Secure Center and Intake Facility in Bordentown would close and two modern institutions would be built in Ewing and Winslow Township.

Monroe officials hope the Federal and Gravel Hill roads application process will receive final approval to protect land by the summer.

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Correspondent

Christopher Lang is a freelance correspondent for MonroeNow. Previously he was part of The Record-USA Today Network and served as an editor for a decade at NJMG.

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