Township Renews Lease of Thompson Tract
Parcel to Remain Undisturbed for Minimum of Five Years
ROBBINSVILLE, NJ – (January 12, 2023) – Robbinsville Township has officially renewed its lease of a portion of Block 5, Lot 1 on its tax map, also known as the Thompson Tract and the Cubberly Property, to Tri County Turf, LLC for the next five years.
Maintaining the status quo means the Township will not enter into an agreement with the Robbinsville School District Board of Education to convert any part of the leased land into playing fields. Tri County Turf, which submitted its bid to farm soybeans and corn on December 9, 2022, has leased 117 of the 152.6 acres from the Township since 2013. Robbinsville Administration also is in the process of finding an alternate site for its proposed all-purpose recreation facility, which had been previously suggested on a portion of school district property.
Township Council officially closed the matter via Resolution 2023-30 at the January 26, 2023 public meeting.
“Township-owned land next to the Public Works building (56 Robbinsville- Allentown Road) is certainly a viable candidate,” Business Administrator Joy Tozzi said. “Building the facility on land other than school district property eliminates the need for additional athletic fields on Block 5, Lot 1.”
Last spring, the Township had proposed changing the purpose or use of approximately 38 of the 152.6 acres from farmland to outdoor athletic fields and leasing the land to the Robbinsville BOE for the phased construction of new fields. Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:36-25.6(a)1, a hearing to obtain public comment on this proposed change of purpose or use was held in the Robbinsville Township Municipal Building on Thursday, June 9. The matter also was discussed at length at the September 8 Council meeting. Large crowds attended both of those Council meetings, with many residents voicing their objections to the proposed change of use.
“This is another prime example of the public speaking, and us listening,” Mayor Dave Fried said after the new lease was memorialized via Resolution 2022-336 at the December 22, 2022, Council Meeting. “We have said time and time again that not every plan that comes across our desks is a done deal. This proposed change of use plan with the BOE, while well-intentioned, was certainly flawed and the bottom line is the public didn’t want it. Our open space, preservation, conservation, and rich farming history speaks for itself, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that the community spoke out and this parcel of land will remain as it is.”
The bid award to Tri County Turf ensures the 117 acres of leased land cannot be disturbed for at least another five years.
“This is why it is so important to work together and hear everyone’s voice,” Mayor Fried added. “If we can conserve or preserve property, we are absolutely going to do it. Open space is the only aspect where I’m proud Robbinsville has the highest tax. We preserve more acres than any town in Mercer County and we want to secure even more, such as Serenity Farms (aka Gafgen Farm; aka Lavender Farm) and Wittenborn Farm. At the end of the day, once these parcels are developed, and there are simply not that many left in town, they are gone forever.”
Council President Debbie Blakely, who walked the property several times following the initial public meeting in June and has been a staunch proponent of maintaining the current use of the land, was thrilled to vote ‘yes’ to the Resolution.
“This Council will always take its time, listen to all of our residents’ concerns and do what is best for our community,” Ms. Blakely said. “After exhaustive research, walking those fields and listening to many residents - as well as the Board of Education - we have concluded this change of use to athletic fields was just not prudent. We deeply value our open space and have proven to be excellent stewards of it, so we will continue doing all we can to protect it.”