Ordinance No. 10-18

Introduced: July 22, 2010
Public Hearing: August 26, 2010
Status: Removed

An ordinance of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex County, State of New Jersey, regarding authorizing a referendum to modify the ordinance restricting expenditures from the Open Space Trust Fund

BE IT ORDAINED by the Mayor and Council of the Township of Vernon as follows:

WHEREAS, Vernon Township created an Open Space Trust Fund by Ordinance #00-16, which authorized a municipal tax to fund an Open Space Trust Fund;

WHEREAS, Ordinance #00-16 limited expenditures from the Open Space Trust Fund to be dedicated to farmland preservation and to preserving open space;

WHEREAS, the current Open Space Trust Fund has a balance of $889,349.34 as of July 16, 2010;

WHEREAS, the renewal of the Open Space municipal tax was presented to the voters by Ordinance #06-29 and by Ordinance #07-18 and was defeated both times;

WHEREAS, there is no current municipal tax to fund the Open Space Trust Fund;

WHEREAS, there have been no recent purchases of land or easements using funds from the Open Space Trust Fund;

WHEREAS, the governing body of the Township of Vernon has proposed modifying the limitations on expenditures from the Open Space Trust Fund;

WHEREAS, since the Open Space Trust Fund was created by voter referendum and the limitation on the Open Space Trust Fund were linked to that referendum, it is appropriate to seek voter approval to change the restrictions on expenditures from the Open Space Trust Fund;

WHEREAS, a majority of the governing body seeks to amend the restrictions on the Open Space Trust Fund to make Vernon Township’s Ordinances more similar to the applicable state statute;

NOW THEREFORE IT BE RESOLVED by the governing body of the Township of Vernon that:

  1. A copy of this Ordinance should be immediately forwarded to the County Clerk.
  2. That the County Clerk should be requested to put the following question on the ballot for the November 2, 2010 general election:

    “Should Vernon Township’s Ordinances govern the Open Space Trust Fund, which had a balance of approximately $889,349.34 as of July 16, 2010, be changed to allow funds in the Open Space Trust to be used for the following purposes:
    1. acquisition of lands for recreation and conservation purposes;
    2. development of lands acquired for recreation and conservation purposes;
    3. maintenance of lands acquired for recreation and conservation purposes;
    4. acquisition of farmland for farmland preservation purposes;
    5. historic preservation of historic properties, structures, facilities, sites, areas, or objects, and the acquisition of such properties, structures, facilities, sites, areas, or objects for historic preservation purposes; or
    6. payment of debt service on indebtedness issued or incurred by a municipality for any of the purposes set forth in subparagraph (a), (b), (d) or (e) of this paragraph.”
  3. In the event that the above referendum question is certified by the Board of Elections to have been approved by a majority, then the following Ordinances adopted replace Chapter 244 in its entirety as follows:
    1. § 244-1. Establishment of Open Space and Recreation Committee. There is hereby established an Open Space and Recreation Committee which shall consist of nine members whose terms and powers are set forth below.
    2. § 244-2. Membership. The Open Space and Recreation Committee shall be comprised of the following persons to be appointed by the Township Council:
      1. The Mayor of the Township of Vernon.
      2. One member of the Township Council.
      3. One member from the Township Land Use Board.
      4. One member of the Township Environmental Commission.
      5. One member of the Township Recreation Commission.
      6. Four citizens of the Township holding no other elected, appointed or employment position, one to be appointed by the Mayor and three to be appointed by the Township Council.
    3. § 244-3. Terms of office. All members of the Open Space and Recreation Committee shall have a term of office of two years (or, term of Mayor and Councilperson would coincide with their respective term of office).
    4. § 244-4. Power and functions.
      1. The Open Space and Recreation Committee shall select from among its members a Chairman and a Vice Chairman to serve as the presiding officer in the absence of the Chairman. In the event of a tie vote, the Chairman’s vote shall be counted twice to break the tie. The Committee shall also select a Secretary, whose function shall be to maintain minutes of the Committee’s meetings and records of the proceedings of the Committee.
      2. The Open Space and Recreation Committee shall hold public meetings, which public meetings shall be held in accordance with the Open Public Meetings and the Committee shall give appropriate notification of said meetings.
      3. The Open Space and Recreation Committee shall prepare an Open Space and Recreation Plan (the “plan”) to be used by the Township Council in prioritizing expenditures and in conjunction with applications for participation in the green trust planning incentive funding category and submitted to other sources of funding to fulfill the purposes for which the Open Space and Recreation Trust Fund was created.
      4. The Open Space and Recreation Committee shall also make a determination of properties which it recommends that the Township acquire and/or properties for which it recommends that development rights should be acquired, developed and/or maintained for open space and/or recreation purposes.
      5. The Open Space and Recreation Committee shall submit a prioritized list of those properties to the Township Council, which shall review the list and make a determination as to which properties are to be acquired and shall state the amount of funds that the Committee shall make available for such acquisition, development, maintenance and/or preservation.
      6. After selection of the properties referred to in Subsections D and above, the Township may proceed to acquire by gift, purchase or by eminent domain proceedings, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 20:3-1 et seq., the identified parcels within the financial constraints established by the Township Council.
    5. § 244-5. Organization meeting. The Open Space and Recreation Committee shall hold its initial organization meeting within 30 days of the effective date of this article or appointment of the Committee, whichever occurs last.
    6. § 244-6. Fund for open space acquisition. There is hereby established an account to be known and designated as the “Open Space and Recreation Fund” (the “fund”) which shall be maintained in accordance with N.J.S.A. 40A:4-1 and N.J.S.A. 40A:5-1. Funds from the fund may, as directed by the Township Council, be utilized to acquire or develop vacant land, as well as land which has improvements upon it at the time of acquisition, or to acquire development rights, where the principal purpose of the acquisition is to preserve open space and recreation.
    7. § 244-7. Funding.
      1. The fund shall be funded with the funds collected and maintained in the previous Farmland and Open Space Tax, which was authorized by Ordinance 00-16 and resulted in a tax for 5 years beginning in 2001. [A historical note: subsequent Ordinances 6-29 and 7-18 failed to obtain voter approval to continue the tax.]
      2. The funds accumulated within the fund may be utilized for any of the purposes set forth in N.J.S.A. 40:12-15.7. Any and all interest that accrues shall remain in the fund and may be utilized for the above-described purposes.
      3. If the Township Council determines that additional funds are needed, it may seek approval for future taxation to support the fund by adopting an ordinance to put the question to the voters by referendum.
    8. § 244-8. Sale of property.
      1. Property acquired with funds from the fund may not be leased or sold, until and unless the sale or lease has been authorized by the Township Council in the manner prescribed by law.
      2. The Mayor and Township Council, after at least one public hearing, and upon a finding that the purposes of this article will be better served, or that any land acquired by the Township pursuant to this article is required for another public use, may by ordinance convey, through sale, exchange, transfer or other disposition, title to or a lesser interest in that land, provided that the Township shall replace any land conveyed under this section with land of at least equal fair market value and reasonably equivalent usefulness, size, quality and location. Any money derived from the conveyance shall be deposited into the fund.
      3. Any conveyance made pursuant to this section shall be made in strict accordance with the Local Lands and Buildings Law (N.J.S.A. 40A:12-1 et seq.). In the event of conveyance by exchange, the land or improvements thereon to be transferred to the trust shall be at least equal in fair market value and of reasonably equivalent usefulness, size, quality and location to the land or improvements transferred from the fund.
  4. In the event that the Board of Elections certifies that the referendum question set forth above is not approved by a majority, then this Ordinance shall be null and void and Chapter 244 of the Vernon Township Code shall remain as currently written.