BRICK – There were once 59 homes planned for a tract of land by the Breton Woods section of the township. Now, it’ll be nothing but trees forever.
A developer, DR Horton NJ/PA ℅ Robert Fesco had a plan to build homes that ranged from 2,300 to 3,200 square feet on the 31.63 acres, which lies east of Laurel Avenue, backs up to the Osbornville Elementary School and borders Breton Woods.
The land was owned by Visitation Roman Catholic Church and the Diocese of Trenton. The Diocese had thousands of acres throughout New Jersey for expansion.
So many neighbors came out to the Planning Board hearings about the property that the meetings had to be moved to a larger venue due to fire codes. An online petition to deny development had thousands of signatures.
“If it is lost, the ‘woods’ in Breton Woods will be in name only,” the petition said.
Last year, Mayor John G. Ducey said the Diocese of Trenton had no interest in selling the property to the town. However, the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust was very interested in buying it. The trust brings in more than $10 million in funding every year based on a 1.2 cent tax on every property in the county – both residential and commercial. The county’s fund always has more buying power than a town’s.
DR Horton of Mount Laurel, who now owns the property, has accepted a negotiated offer of $8,550,000, the county said. Of this, $6,840,000 will come from the county and $1,710,000 from Brick.
Both the Township and County will seek grant funding from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres program.
Brick Township, which also committed to maintaining the entire site through a maintenance agreement with Ocean County, anticipates developing a six-acre parcel of the site adjacent to the Osbornville Elementary School into a playground.
Ocean County Commissioner Virginia E. Haines, liaison to the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund announced that this property meets the requirements of the County’s open space program and “will be a benefit to the residents of Brick Township and Ocean County.”
“We are very pleased that this parcel of land in Brick Township could now remain as open space,” she said.
A public hearing by the Ocean County Board of Commissioners is expected to be held during their March 1 meeting at 4 p.m. at the Ocean County Administration Building, Toms River. This needs to be done before the final approval.
Haines explained, “the site consists of over 30 acres of mature, upland, oak and pine forest. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has identified the site as an area of special concern for the eastern box turtle and it also serves as an important migratory bird habitat.
“Existing trails on this site have been enjoyed by surrounding residents and in partnership with Brick Township, the site will be permanently preserved for the enjoyment of the public,” Haines added.
The preservation of this tract will serve to protect a groundwater recharge area and prevent further development and stormwater runoff which would impact the environmentally sensitive Metedeconk River and Barnegat Bay.
Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Joseph H. Vicari said, “Ocean County appreciates Brick Township’s interest in partnering with us on this acquisition. We are pleased that we can purchase the property and keep it as open space forever. I appreciate the efforts of Brick Township to develop six acres to benefit the local school children.”
“Certainly, this purchase answers the concerns of the many residents that encouraged the preservation of the land,” Vicari added.