In an effort to address some of the questions regarding the 1-cent increase to the Open Space Tax approved by voters November 7, please review the following Q&A and accompanying chart.
Q: How did the Open Space Question appear on the November 7, 2023 ballot?
A: "Should the Township of Robbinsville increase its annual levy by one cent ($.01) per One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) of the assessed value of real property within the Township, so that the total annual levy shall be seven and a half cents ($.075) per One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) of the assessed value of real property within the Township in order to provide additional revenue for the acquisition, improvement, maintenance and/or preservation of farmland, open space, recreational and historic properties, or payment of debt service or indebtedness issued or incurred by a municipality for the purposes set forth herein, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:12-15.7, and to annually appropriate that revenue for those purposes?"
The intent of this proposition is to increase the Township's Open Space Tax by one cent ($.01) per One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) of assessed value of real property within the Township so that the total annual levy would be increased from six and a half cents ($.065) to seven and a half cents ($.075) per One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) of assessed value of real property within the Township. This would allow the Township to continue to replenish a fund previously established for the purpose of acquiring, improving, maintaining and/or preserving farmland, open space, recreational and historic land, easements, development rights or other interests in such real property, and to pay the debt service on indebtedness issued or previously incurred by the Township for any of the purposes stated above. The revenue will be used to acquire, improve, maintain and/or preserve open space, recreational and historic properties for future generations to enjoy, as well as either purchase or deed restrict property so that it remains farmland. The revenue may also be used to pay the debt service on indebtedness issued or incurred for acquisition, improvement, maintenance and/or preservation of open space, recreational and historical properties. This proposal is a decision that your Township Council believes should be made with input from the residents of this community. This dedication is authorized by New Jersey Statute 40:1215.7.
Q: Why did the Township ask voters to increase the Open Space Tax?
A: The Township is asking for a 1-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.
Q: Why weren't particular properties specifically mentioned in the wording on the open space ballot question?
A: Legally, the Township cannot name specific parcels. 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.
Q: Was Serenity Farm and the Wittenborn Farm both candidates to be preserved as Open Space if the November 7 ballot question passed?
A: Serenity Farm was still a candidate, but the owner(s) of the Wittenborn Family were not interested in preserving their farm.
Q: Can these parcels still be preserved without passage of the Open Space ballot question?
A: The Township cannot afford to preserve any parcels, or continue to maintain existing parks, parcels or infrastructure, without an increase in the Open Space tax.
Q: How much do those parcels cost?
A: As appraised, the development rights for Serenity Farm is $1.7 million, while an outright purchase would cost $2.45 million (as January 10, 2022).
Q: What is so important about Serenity Farm?
A: The Gafgen Family Farm (Serenity 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 between 8-10 houses.
Q: Would Mercer County provide financial assistance toward the purchase and preservation of Serenity Farm?
A: Yes, the County has pledged to provide 40 percent (approximately $680,000) of the cost.
Q: What else will the adopted tax increase be used for?
A: As our existing parks continue to age, general maintenance and improvements costs have been steadily increasing over the years. Robbinsville takes pride in our parks and wants to continue to invest in our parks for residents to enjoy. In addition, plans for the Miry Run Recreation Area include a fence along the airport side of the property, the creation of walking trails, lighting for the pickle ball courts, upgrades for parking by the Bresnahan fields, basketball court resurfacing and a new inclusive park.
The chart below is the proposed annual tax increase for a 1-cent increase of the Open Space tax.