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$1.5M Approved for Early Street Community Garden Purchase

Funding for nine open space projects in Morris County approved by freeholders.

Funding for nine Morris County open space projects—including Morristown's Early Street Community Garden—were approved by the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Wednesday.

Freeholders approved shifting $4.4 million from the county's Preservation Trust Fund to help preserve 84 acres of open space in eight towns. The largest grant award, $2,075,000, will go to the Harding Land Trust for preservation of 43.5 acres in Harding and Morris townships known as "Frelinghuysen Fields 2."

A grant of $1,575,000 was awarded to Morristown to acquire nearly an acre of land occupied by Grow it Green Morristown's Early Street Community Garden. For several years, the non-profit organization has maintained the garden on land once slated for development.

The money approved by freeholders will in part be used to expand the number of garden beds, provide a public park area along the sidewalk and establish a publicly-accessible walking path through the garden.

Once the property is purchased by the town, it will then be leased to Grow it Green Morristown.

While optimistic, Carolle Huber, one of Grow it Green Morristown's founding partners, said the freeholder decision to support the project was not a slam dunk.

"This is a huge sum of money for a small piece of property," she said. "The county's recognizing that an acre in Morristown is going to be much more expensive than an acre in Long Valley. There is importance in open space in an urban area. It's huge that we got this."

"I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Morris County Freeholders for recognizing the fact that funding this small property will have a huge impact on the Morristown community, an urban community in Morris County that has very little open space left," said Myra Bowie McCready, another Grow it Green founder. "I would also like to thank the team at the Trust for Public Land. Kathy Hakke has been wonderful in bringing this project for the Town of Morristown and GIGM to fruition. And a special thanks goes to the owner of the property, Tim Jones, for hanging in there with us for the past three years and to all the gardeners and supporters that realized that something very special was happening on this little piece of property." 

Haake, project manager for Trust for Public Land—the national land preservation organization handling purchase of the property—thanked county freeholders for recognizing the importance of the project.

"An urban garden is a great way to get people you don't typically see out on the land," she said. "It's definitely a community builder. This type of urban area benefits from this. We really appreciate the support of the Morris County Freeholders."

Closing on the land is not expected for several months, Haake said, as some additional funding is still needed. However, she said that money would be in-hand by the time the land officially is handed over to Morristown.

The Frelinghuysen Fields property, southeast of Harter Road and James Street on the Harding and Morris Township border, consists of wooded wetlands surrounded by crop and pastureland, and will be used for passive recreation.

Other preservation projects were in Denville, Chatham Township, Mountain Lakes, Washington Township and Pequannock. A complete list of the 2012 approved projects can be found on the Morris County Preservation Trust website.

clyde donovan November 29, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Here they go again. All seven freeholders throwing your tax money down the toilet. Since when has "nearly an acre of land" on Early Street been worth $1,575,000. Whose cousin or crony owned the land?
Moira November 30, 2012 at 01:20 PM
My exact sentiments. Who owns this property? Isn't that an important part of this story? This reminds me of the fifth season of "The Wire."
Moira November 30, 2012 at 01:31 PM
The Early Street website identifies owner as "TJC Custom Homes," but I haven't been able to locate it in current tax records. However, "Early Development LLC" appears to own a number of lots in the redevelopment zone. I wonder who owns that and when those parcels were purchased.
John Dunphy November 30, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Moira, this is included in the story: "And a special thanks goes to the owner of the property, Tim Jones, for hanging in there with us for the past three years ..."
Margret Brady November 30, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Why is no one questioning the Frelinghuysen Fields project in Harding Twp. home of Congressman Frelinghuysen. Who owns that parcel near his large estate in Harding. Could his family have donated that land to their community? How much are wetlands that can't be developed worth anyway? The Early Street Garden site has been proposed for development for many years. As part of the redevelopment zone it became even more valuable. If you read the article, the grant includes the cost of improvements to the site and not just land aquisition.
Morristown Republican November 30, 2012 at 04:51 PM
43 acres compared to 1 acre! Margret are you serious? Its sad how you are even comparing.
Ryan November 30, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Geez. How dare the county support sustainability and open space!?! What is this world coming to! Personally, I think they should have taken that money and given it back to the wealthy.
motown mama November 30, 2012 at 11:11 PM
The two projects - one rural, one urban - are very different and serve different purposes. The reality is that any purchase of land with open space funds (re: tax payer dollars) can only be done after many, many evaluations of the land have been performed. These evaluations include multiple appraisals so that the land is purchased at or below market rate. The County did their homework when they look at these high-ticket acquisitions.
Sam December 01, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Good job Motown mama clueing these complainers in. I know some of the people heading up the Early Street Garden and they are selfless, caring people looking to bring the community together through growing healthy food. 1.5 million? What this land will produce is priceless.
Motown Resident December 01, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Hogwash, this is another parcel of land taken off of Morristown's ratable's. This simply puts more pressure on the taxpayers. I get that the garden brings the community together but why should the current taxpayers carry this load. I bet if you charged the gardeners the true maintenance of this property (that would be equitable to ALL the residents of Morristown), the demand for this would change dramatically.
Moira December 01, 2012 at 01:42 PM
No one is disputing the benefits of a community garden. That is irrelevant to this discussion. The point of some of these comments (including mine) is that $1.5 million for less than an acre on Early Street is an absurd price to pay and to impose on taxpayers for that benefit.
Sam December 01, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Moira, why don't you go to the county and look at the market analysis and then figure out how much it costs to improve the land. Maybe you can get this info from the people that worked so hard to get the 1.5 million approved to purchase the site. I know they don't have any "agenda". If you are so suspicious once the deed is done, why not be involved before it makes the news!
Sam December 01, 2012 at 02:06 PM
This money is coming from the COUNTY's preservation trust fund. Morristown is being AWARDED the 1.5 million. Would you prefer the money go to some other town in the county?
Motown Resident December 01, 2012 at 02:06 PM
I agree with you Moira, $1.5 million is far too much too spent benefitting so few. In addition, the long term costs of taking that property valued at 1.5 million off the tax rolls compounds its true cost to the community. I hope Morristown receives some sort of tax credit from the county for this buffoonery.
Sam December 01, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Morristown is not spending 1.5 million! Re-read the article!!! Again, would you prefer the money be AWARDED to another town???
Motown Resident December 01, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Oh wow, free money................I wonder how they got those funds? Let's see, would I rather have a $1.5 million piece of property generating 30k a year in tax ratable's for Morristown, nah, let's just let the other property owners absorb it. Your right, we should rejoice!!!
Sam December 01, 2012 at 02:48 PM
How self centered. Why don't you grab a shovel and get out and meet some of your neighbors. Your comments on the Patch posts sound so angry. Why do the 2 of you live in Morristown??? Anything good you can say about it??? I never see anything but complaints out of both of you!
Motown Resident December 01, 2012 at 09:20 PM
I wouldn't say I am angry, I guess rather tired and frustrated. I am tired that my property taxes have nearly doubled in the last 12 years. I am frustrated and tired that the false hope of high density projects like 40 Park, The Vail and Transit Village was going to generate some sort of substantive tax relief. It just seems that if the gardeners really want to garden, perhaps they should split the cost of the property taxes, (that the town would have recieved) we have 60 gardeners splitting 30k would be $500 a year. Everyone benefits, there vegetables would more than pay for there garden plot rent, it would still be open space, you could meet your neighbors and the town gets some much needed budgetary help. If I join a town pool, I would have to pay to enjoy the benefits, why shouldn't the gardeners carry there weight as well. Sam, as for my sarcastic remark to your post, I do apologize, it was unwarranted and unbecoming to this forum.
motown mama December 01, 2012 at 10:03 PM
The new configuration of the property (as per the design in the Daily Record) showed a public park in the front of the lot, a boardwalk through the center of the property as well as a community garden. I think with over 240 new apartments going in across the street (and that's just in Phase 1) plus the two senior buildings next door that this property is going to get a lot of use.
Patriot December 25, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Is anyone aware of the dire straits of our economy? Our debt? Take the money because it might go to another town? What drivel! These Freeholders...oops I mean FREELOADERS should be kicked out of office. They are totally irresponsible and are not doing the job that they were hired to do. Yes, GROSSI that means you BIGTIME! And every other toadie that is seated in a freeholder chair and is not doing the job that they were elected to do. Stop spending taxpayer money. Stop accepting money with strings attached. Stop playing games with the people of Morris County. Stop pursuing the purchase of OPEN SPACE. We the People are on to you, and we will not stop before we unseat you and expose you for the corrupt phoney politicians that you are. You will be held accountable.

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