Monday, May 16, 2011

Open Space Threat

Howdy members of Atlantic Highlands Neighbors for the Environment (AHNE)!

It's been a few years since you last heard from us.  As an organization, we've been in hibernation mode.  However, many of the individual members of AHNE have been actively involved in important environmental issues in our community.  For example, some of us worked with the Atlantic Highlands Elementary School Board and the State DEP to install a sub slab depressurization system at the school.  This system helps to minimize risks associated with the TCE contamination in the adjacent lot, and it was paid for by the responsible party.   

A new issue is now on the horizon and it is a good time for AHNE to regroup.  

The AH Borough Council is moving to roll back the open space tax of $.01 per $100 of assessed value approved by voters in 1999.  This open space tax moratorium will be for at least three years.  A public hearing on the matter will take place on Wednesday, May 25th at 7 PM.   Information on the resolution and the hearing can be found here:  

Instead of using the economic downturn as an excuse to go backwards, the Borough Council should recognize the opportunity--the opportunity to acquire new tracts of valuable open space, to build long-term resiliency of our natural systems, and to contribute to the sustainability of the AH economy.  If we have strong open space protections, we will enjoy a higher quality of life, and a more vibrant, economically viable community.  Now is the time for the town to be aggressive about open space acquisition, not reduce our capacity to do so.   With funding sources available from the State Green Acres Fund, the County, and elsewhere, we can multiply the impact of our fund, which, as I understand it, stands at around $400,000 today.  

I have heard that the Environmental Commission opposes this ballot measure, and numerous folks of all political persuasions have expressed their opposition to me personally.    

If you are interested in this issue and want to engage more fully, the public hearing on the May 25th is important--if for no other reason than to send a strong message to our Mayor and Council that they are moving in the wrong direction.  However, given their actions on this issue to date, I expect the them to approve the referendum for placement on the November ballot.  So the real battle will be in November.  

If you are interested in actively organizing the get out the NO VOTE for November, send me an email ( and we can get a sub-group going.  You can also send people to the AHNE website where they can register to join the group and to volunteer.  

Let me know what kind of role you may want to play--e.g. hosting a meeting, research, voter outreach, media, coalition building, etc.  

I am confident that the voters of AH will reject this proposal, but it will be important for us to proactively organize so that we can lay this question to rest, and ideally build a more visionary open space program moving forward.  

As a refresher, below is the mission of AHNE.  Also, if for any reason, you want to unsubscribe to this list, please let me know that as well:

All the best, 

Atlantic Highlands Neighbors for the Environment is an all volunteer, non-partisan organization that brings environmental issues to voters and supports environmentally responsible candidates in town elections. 

Volunteers and contributors to AHNE want the Atlantic Highlands Mayor and Council to: 
  • protect and acquire what little open space remains in the borough, especially along the bayfront
  • fight pollution and improve water quality in Many Mind Creek and Sandy Hook Bay
  • ensure full clean-up of contaminated sites near the school, along Many Mind Creek, and on the McConnell property
  • complete the network of trails, including the Bayshore Trail, Many Mind Creek Greenway, and the connection between Lenape Woods eastern and western sections
  • preserve our natural areas – beach, dune, saltmarsh, wetland, and woodland -- both as habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife and as low-impact recreation sites
  • plant and protect trees throughout town and maintain slope stability in the eastern hills
  • preserve the small-town, human scale, pedestrian-friendly character of Atlantic Highlands ....and promote other environmental values that enhance the quality of life in town
  • recognize the relationships between Atlantic Highlands and wider environmental issues like global warming, ecosystems collapse, and ocean degradation
  • support efforts to improve energy efficiency in homes, municipal buildings, and municipal vehicle fleets
AHNE believes that environmental concerns transcend partisan politics, and it seeks to involve voters and candidates in environmental issues, regardless of their party affiliations.