11/29/71 by Barbara Selick
Ne,w Brunswick is squaring off for a court fight against North Brunswick over a section of the township’s proposed master plan that would change some 120 to 150 city-owned acres along Farrington Lake from residential zoning to parkland.
City officials announced today they would file suit against North Brunswick unless it changes master plan to day in a residential tag on the acreage, which borders Farrington Lake between Farrington Boulevard and Edlys Lane in the township.
The city said it would challenge the proposed new parkland designation in court on the grounds that it is spot zoning.
Money lies at the basis of the issue, according to the New Brunswick point of view. The zoning change, city officials explain, would mean that New Brunswick can sell the land only to North Brunswick.
The zoning revision thus deprives New Brunswick of the benefits of offering the land for sale to the open market. City Council President Aldrage B. Cooper said in a letter sent last week to the North Brunswick Planning Board.
City officials to-day said that if North Brunswick still intends to limit the sale of the land to itself, the township will have to buy the land at a cost of $1.5 million. That is the price put on the land by a recent revaluation of property in the township, New Brunswick officials said.
North Brunswick Mayor Fred Gilbert said the township does not consider the zoning change ‘'spot zoning.”
The county planning board has recommended that the land be kept as open space, Gilbert said, and some state legislators also have said that the land along Farrington Lake and Weston’s Mill Pond should be retained in this manner.
“I am sure that' New Brunswick will get a fair price and, of course, North Brunswick will pay it,” Gilbert said.
The mayor said the $1.5 million value put on the land during the recent revaluation is higher than the value set by two real estate appraisers who surveyed the land in preparation for the township’s application for state Green Acres and federal Open Space funds to purchase the tract.
Nicholas Kehayas., townships planning consultant vho sent in the applications, said the amount requested was approximately $1 million Thus, there is a $500,000 difference between the two values tha’ have been given for the land
If New Brunswick and North Brunswick cannot reach an agreement on the purchase price for the land, Gilbert said he believes the issue would go to condemnation proceedings, with the final price probably between what the city wants to get and what the township wants to pay.
The North Brunswick mayor emphasized that he could; not see the land being developed as anything but parkland, Some of it runs right down into the lake and could not be used for residential development he said.
Most of the land in the three townships was purchased by New Brunswick when Farrington Lake was built to supply the city’s water needs in the 1920s. The land itself has remained largely unused since. Taxes on the parcels in the three townships , cost the city $23,043.60 this year.
The tax bill will show a majority increase next year because the assessments on much of the city property were more than doubled under -the North Brunswick revaluation.
Commenting on the North Brunswick land issue, New Brunswick Mayor Patricia Q. Sheehan declared, “I think that it is the obligation of the North Brunswick officials to let their voters know that they will have to spend over $1.5 million to acquire this land. This is the market price they themselves have established.”
The mayor said it is highly questionable that North Brunswick can acquire the lake and watershed through condemnation proceedings. “If they are intent on proceeding with their rezoning they will have to be prepared to pay the market price for the property,” she said.
The New Brunswick City Council also expressed fear that if North Brunswick acquires the lake and the land around it, the city’s water supply will not be protected.
In his letter to the North Brunswick Planning Board, Cooper noted that at the present the township offers no assistance toward the protection i of the public water supply and the the watershed at Farrington Lake.
“A trip along the watershed in the township will show that debris of all types is deposited along the shores and in some locations there have been cars burned and stripped and pushed info the lake. The city of New Brunswick paid taxes in the amount of $7,902 for 1971 (for this property) and received no protection of the watershed in return,” Cooper said.
Gilbert said that quite a few years ago the city used to patrol the area but dropped this. Since the township does not own the land it does not feel obligated to patrol it,” he said.