HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Atlantic County is providing as much as $25,000 in open-space funds to buy an environmentally sensitive 0.8-acre property on Babcock Creek at the end of Second Street in Mays Landing.
It’s the first open-space project funded by the county in several years, providing a 50 percent match to a state Green Acres grant for the $50,000 purchase price, Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said.
“It’s been a while,” Levinson said. “We are very frugal with our open space. We still have debt service have to meet, and we are no longer collecting 2 cents like we were collecting during good times.”
He was referring to the county’s open space tax, which was an eighth of a cent per $100 valuation last year, and has yet to be set for this year.
Hamilton Township will own the small park that results, and the county and state will keep a flood-prone buildable lot from being developed.
“This natural habitat contains undisturbed tidal wetlands and has been identified as a bald eagle foraging area,” Levinson said.
The county bonds to purchase property, and pays for the debt service through its open-space fund. The open-space fund has its own separate budget and is not part of the county’s general fund, Levinson said.
The property, block 809, lot 6, is within the FEMA-designated flood hazard area of Babcock Creek and the federal boundary of the Great Egg Harbor River, part of the National Wild and Scenic River System.
Fred Akers, administrator of the Great Egg Harbor Watershed Association, has been working to preserve the property because of its flood potential and environmental sensitivity. He said the freeholder board now has to vote on the funding.
In better economic times, before the 2014 contraction of the Atlantic City casino industry, the county open-space tax was about 2 cents per $100 valuation.
The lesser tax was to give taxpayers a break while the area was going through a downturn, Levinson said.
This year he anticipates the tax will be less than a half-cent per $100 valuation, he said.