Senate Ok’s Gordon Legislation To Give Flood-Ravaged Towns Flexibility To Buy-Out Properties

Measure Would Extend Usage of Open Space Funds to Blue Acres Acquisitions

TRENTON – The Senate today gave final approval to bipartisan legislation Sen. Bob Gordon sponsored to give municipalities the ability use their locally-raised open space funds to purchase flood-prone properties.

“After the twin ravages of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, more and more residents and municipal leaders have realized that the cycle of flooding and rebuilding is no longer worth it, and that there needs to be a way out,” said Gordon (D-Bergen). “By giving towns the ability to use open space funds to purchase these properties, towns can help homeowners out of this vicious cycle, while also returning land to its natural state, which can hopefully buffer other homeowners from future floods.”

Numerous counties and municipalities already have voter-approved local Open Space Funds, which homeowners contribute to through a dedication on their property tax bill. Currently, however, the use of those funds is limited to purchasing open space for preservation or recreational use.

Gordon’s measure (S-3078) would allow the use of locally derived open space funds to also cover the acquisition of “Blue Acres” properties – lands that have been damaged by, or may be prone to, repeated flooding – if voters approve of the expanded purpose. The purchase of Blue Acres properties, including the demolition of remaining structures, not only can increase the amount of preserved open space, but also create a buffer against future floods in the surrounding area.

Gordon said the model would also allow property owners who would find themselves unable to sell a flood-prone home to receive some return on the investment of their property.

”Many residents will have tremendous difficulty getting out of these flood prone properties unless local governments have the ability to step in where no one else will,” said Gordon. “Without this safety valve, many homeowners will continue to find themselves forced to repeat the same cycle of flooding, evacuation and property destruction.”

The measure is cosponsored by Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerset).

The bill passed 37-0 and now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature to make it law.