Master Plan - Open Space Techniques
APPENDIX 1: Open Space Preservation Techniques and Funding Sources
Identifying sources of financing for Open Space Preservation is a major consideration in the Voorhees Master Plan. Voorhees Township officials are faced with the difficult challenge of preserving open spaces which will maintain community livability and control the congestion which is rapidly approaching critical mass.
The financing methods must be equitable, economically efficient and politically acceptable. These challenges are even greater as the result of decreasing revenues and increasing voter resistance to public expenditures. Finding the most appropriate revenues to meet our open space preservation needs is complicated further by reductions in state and county funded assistance. Considerations for financing open space preservation must therefore be guided by an appreciation of political realities, an understanding of benefits and costs, and decisions involving the needs of the community and environmental protection.
1. Green Trust: Green Acres Program
The purpose of the New Jersey Green Acres and Recreational Opportunities Program administered by the Department of Environmental Protection, is to increase and preserve permanent outdoor recreational areas for the public's use and enjoyment.
The Local Assistance provisions ofP.L. 1974, C.102, P.L. 1978, C.118 and P.L 1983, C.354 make State funds available for the development of outdoor recreation facilities and for the acquisition of open space lands.
It should be noted that limited amounts of funding remain in this program for 1998. At this time, funds left over from prior bond acts, project withdrawals or cancellations, and repayments on previously disbursed Green Trust loans, are the only basis for future loans and grants. Additional funding is not anticipated without either the passage of another Green Acres Bond Issue, or establishment of a stable source of funding for natural resource programs.
2. Dedicated Tax
A nonbinding referendum would be presented to Township residents asking if they would be willing to pay a small additional tax based on their assessed property valuation on their local purpose tax to fund an open space preservation program. The Preservation Fund would permit the purchase of development rights from land owners or to make land purchases. The Township's open space fund could be bolstered by additional funds from State and county grants. Dedicated tax proposals are currently being considered in the Townships of Mt. Laurel, Evesham and Eastampton.
3. Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, has protected over 10,000 acres in New Jersey. TPL uses its expertise in real estate, law and public financing to preserve land of ecological, historical and recreational value for the public.
4. Density Transfers
A 1996 amendment to the Municipal Land Use Law incorporates a density transfer technique using "noncontiguous parcel clustering". This amendment provides a new land use management tool to municipalities for preserving open space areas.
Noncontiguous parcel clustering is a way to protect farmland, open space, and environmentally sensitive sites in developed as well as undeveloped areas. It also has the potential to help municipalities implement the State Development and Redevelopment Plan, by protecting the environs of designated Centers.
This technique preserves one parcel of land by transferring the density of development for which it is zoned to a noncontiguous parcel. The two parcels may be close by or miles apart.
5. General Revenue Sources
General revenue derives from the various taxes collected from the property taxes collected by municipalities. General revenues are used to fund annual budgets which can include open space. This method of financing has limitations. It results in inconsistent funding levels from year to year and requires that funds be accumulated over time before a large project can be completed.
6. General Obligation Bonds
General obligation bonds overcome the limitations of the "pay as you go" method of general revenue sources. Obligation bonds spread the cost of a project over a number of years. Backed by the full faith and credit of the County or local government that issues the bonds, large sums of money for major projects such as Open Space Preservation can be funded with repayment of principal and interest over a long term. The project can be completed right away, while the cost is spread out more evenly over time.
7. User Based Financing
Userbased financing involves taxes, licenses, fees, charges and special assessments to finance the projects. While userbased financing takes many forms, uniting them all is a desire to shift financing from the general tax base to the parties who actually use them.
8. Development and Impact Fees
Another form of userbased financing is development and impact fees that require land developers to contribute towards the financing of open space preservation.
9. Intermediate Obligations Backed by Limited Tax or Other NonFare Sources
Along the spectrum between general obligation bonds and revenue bonds are numerous intermediate types distinguished by the revenue sources pledged for debt service. The principal types of such obligations are:
Obligations secured by specific limited taxes or additions to the rates of existing taxes.
2. Obligations secured by revenues of profitable public enterprises.
Intermediate financing agency bonds which is a revenue bond variant used by County and local government agencies in recent years as a means of circumventing legal limitations on full faith and credit bonds.
Bonds are best marketed in periods of low interest rates. If bond sales proceed the need for funds, excess cash can be temporarily invested in federal obligations, often at a profit. The profit arises from investing in taxable federal obligations which yield more than tax exempt municipals.
This device should only be used for temporary investments of funds which will eventually be spent on the project.
10. Transportation Enhancements "ISTEA" Legislation
In the fall of each year, the New Jersey Department of Transportation asks County and local government agencies to submit candidate proposals for funding under the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) Transportation Enhancement Provisions. Under these provisions, New Jersey has been receiving at least $6 million dollars per year under this federal program. Transportation Enhancements include such activities as acquisition of scenic easements and scenic sites, and provisions for pedestrians and bicycles. Within these categories, projects must be related to transportation in function, proximity, or impact. It should be noted that as of Spring 1998, ISTEA funding is in a transition phase in Washington and is temporarily on hold.
11. New Jersey Office of State Planning "Town Center Designation"
Voorhees Township is eligible to participate in the Town Center Designation process via application to the Office of State Planning (OSP). The designation can be achieved following a relatively indepth planning process. The foremost benefit would be the completion and implementation of the plan itself. The Town Center Designation report provides plans, goals, objectives and a general implementation agenda for the municipality to follow. OSP views Center Designation as an effort which will lead to greater efficiency in serving the public, reducing costs for tax payers, providing greater protection of environmentally sensitive resources, increasing local business and lowering housing costs. The designation of centers is primarily a local initiative. The following benefits also result from Center Designation:
Municipal Wastewater Assistance Program. Designated centers and municipalities that have locally endorsed revitalization plans and programs are awarded additional points in the priority rating system.
Transportation Enhancements (ISTEA). This NJDOT sponsored program provides additional priority points to Designated Centers.
New Jersey Historic Trust. Funding guidelines include consistency with the State Plan and Center Designation as a factor.
d. The Transportation Trust Fund: Local Aid for Centers. NJDOT has established a new grant program for nontraditional transportation projects. Only municipalities with designated centers are eligible to apply for this funding.
e. Other grants and financial assistance. Implied but not specifically stated in OSP guidelines and policies of various funding agencies is the priority designation for centers.
Examples include Community Development Block Grants and Small Cities Grants, Main Street NJ Program, Green Acres and Recreational Opportunities Program, NJ Clean Communities Program and the Neighborhood Preservation Program..
The New Jersey State Planning Commission and the Office of State Planning places Center Designation high on their priority agenda. In the future, it appears that an increasing number of state agency programs intend to give priority points to designated centers when applications are submitted to their respective agency.