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Spencer, Oliver & Greenwald Bill to Issue $200 Million Bond to Acquire Land for Recreation, Preservation Purposes Approved by Assembly

Bond question would have to be approved by voters in next general election

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Chair Grace Spencer (D-Essex), Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington) to ask voters to authorize a $200 million bond to acquire and develop land for recreation and conservation purposes was approved Thursday by the General Assembly.

“New Jersey is often stereotyped as congested and gritty, and while we do have some of that, we also have plenty of natural beauty that must be nurtured and protected,” said Spencer. “This bond would help not just maintain that careful balance between development and preservation; it would help support the state’s agritourism industry as farms and wineries become popular tourist destinations.”

The bill (A-4541), entitled the “Green Acres, Water Supply and Floodplain Protection, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Bond Act of 2014,” authorizes the issuance of $200 million in state general obligation bonds for acquiring and developing lands for recreation and conservation purposes, preserving farmland, and funding historic preservation projects and “Blue Acres” projects.

“It is no secret that New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country. This is why it is so important that we dedicate funds to help maintain and preserve our natural assets,” said Oliver. “This bond will help ensure that we are able to preserve farmland, historical properties and open space for recreational purposes for families to enjoy, especially in our more densely and populated areas.”

“New Jerseyans have shown time after time that they recognize the importance of open space preservation to our quality of life. It is vital that we strike a balance between development and conservation to keep the garden in the Garden State,” said Greenwald. “This is an investment not just on open space, but future generations who will benefit from these preservation efforts.”

Under the bill, the $200 million in bonds would be allotted as follows: $109 million for the Green Acres program; $12 million for the “Blue Acres” program; $73 million for farmland preservation purposes; and $6 million for historic preservation purposes. The $109 million for Green Acres would be split into: $45 million for state open space acquisitions and park improvements and facilities; $55 million for grants and loans to fund local government open space acquisitions and park improvements and facilities, and $9 million for grants to fund open space acquisitions and park improvements and facilities undertaken by qualifying tax exempt nonprofit organizations.

The bill provides that the bond act be submitted to the people for approval at the general election to be held at least 70 days after enactment. It also appropriates $5,000 to the Department of State for expenses in connection with the publication of the public question.

The bill was approved 63-13-1 and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.