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Schaer & Pintor Marin Bill to Ensure Local Governments Can Take Full Advantage of Open Space Trust Funds for Preservation Projects Clears Assembly

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary S. Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic) and Eliana Pintor-Marin (D-Essex) to specify that county and municipal open space trust funds may be used to demolish structures and remove debris from lands that are being acquired for recreation and conservation purposes was approved Thursday by the full Assembly.

“There seems to be some confusion about how local governments are able to use these funds,” said Schaer. “It is necessary to eliminate any erroneous interpretations that can limit local preservation and revitalization efforts. This clarification will help to breathe new life into our urban areas, where there are lands with lots of debris and dilapidated structures that would have to be cleared before they could be used for recreation or beautification.”

“If the purpose of these funds is not clear, it can hurt local governments who want to protect certain lands from development,” said Pintor-Marin. “By making it clear that demolition and debris removal are included, we can help counties and municipalities run these preservation programs more efficiently and prevent misinterpretations that can delay conservation projects.”

Under current law, counties and municipalities are authorized to establish county and municipal open space trust funds. One of the allowable uses for these funds is the acquisition of lands for recreation and conservation purposes. This bill (A-1645) would specify that “acquisition” includes the demolition of structures on these lands, the removal of debris from these lands and restoration of these lands to a natural state or to a state useful for recreation and conservation purposes.

The bill was approved 72-0 and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.