Serenity Farms & Land Preservation Q&A

Serenity Farms & Land Preservation Q&A
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In an effort to better address some of the many questions surrounding the potential sale of Serenity Farms of Robbinsville (aka the Gafgen Family Farm; aka the Lavender Farm) please review the following Q&A.

Q: Why did the Township ask the voters to increase the Open Space Tax on the November 8, 2022 ballot?

A: The Township asked for the 2-cent increase per every $100 of assessed value because it encourages community participation regarding these decisions. This is not a municipal necessity, unlike public safety, trash collection and plowing streets. Robbinsville has the highest open space tax in Mercer County, but it also has preserved more open space than any other municipality since 2005. Robbinsville kept the municipal portion of your tax bill flat, or reduced it, in nine of the past 10 years, so raising taxes is obviously something it does not take lightly.

Q: Was Serenity Farms and the Wittenborn Farm candidates to be preserved as open space had the November 8 ballot question passed?

A: Yes.

Q: Can these parcels still be preserved without passage of another Open Space ballot question?

A: Not by the Township.

Q: How much do these parcels cost?

A: As appraised, the development rights for Serenity Farms is $1.85 million, while an outright purchase would cost $2.45 million as January 10, 2022. The Wittenborn Farm was appraised at approximately $2.6 million.

Q: Why wasn’t preserving those particular farms specifically mentioned in the wording on the open space ballot question?

A: Legally, the Township could not name specific parcels. However, Mayor Dave Fried has repeatedly taken responsibility for not better communicating why saving these particular farms was so vital. Robbinsville currently has more farmers looking to lease and farm their land than it has actual parcels. Working farms are part of our town’s history and they help keep food costs lower. Anyone who has been to the grocery store lately knows why that is so important.

Q: What does the Robbinsville School District budget and teacher contract negotiations/salaries have to do with open space and preserving farms

A: The Robbinsville school district and Robbinsville Township government are two completely distinct and autonomous bodies. Open Space funds raised and designated to preserve land are not accessible to the school district.

Q: What is so important about Serenity Farms?

A: The Gafgen Family Farm has a rich history, sits in the middle of town and touches quite a few neighborhoods. Also, there are simply not that many parcels of this size remaining in Robbinsville to preserve.

Q: How many houses can be built if Serenity Farms is sold and developed?

A: After wetlands and infrastructure on those 12.34 acres is considered, the Township estimates 8-10 houses. It is estimated that each single-family home generates an average of 2.5 children, and it costs roughly $14,500 dollars to educate each child annually. Using those numbers, that farm will pay for itself in five years or less.

Q: Why is there so much momentum to preserving Serenity Farms before the Wittenborn Farm?

A: The Gafgen family has agreed to be part of the open space preservation program. The Wittenborn Family have not yet decided on its inclusion.

Q: Would the Township need help from Mercer County to purchase and preserve Serenity Farms

A: Yes, and any County assistance would depend heavily on how many of Robbinsville’s registered voters sign the petition currently circulating.

Q: Can residents get the open space question back on the November, 2023 election ballot?

A: Yes. The statute allows for a petition with the required number of signatures of registered Township voters to be presented to Township Council. The governing body would then be required to approve the new ballot question. The number of required signatures is 15 percent of the votes cast locally in the last preceding general election, which is 732 signatures.

-RT-

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