Battling for land
Area fortunate that P'burg group does more than just talk about open space.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
The Phillipsburg Riverview Organization is establishing a reputation as a Hulk Hogan of the environmental world -- an underdog muscle-man willing to go toe-to-toe with heavyweight developers to wrestle prized patches of green space from their vise-like grips.
With a fresh fistful of state Green Acres grant money, PRO says it is willing to go to the mat once again, this time doing battle with developers in Franklin Township or Washington. In Washington, borough officials have been involved in a messy legal battle and -- over the objections of an outspoken group of residents -- are considering a proposed settlement that would bring 162 townhouses to the 125-acre Baker tract. In Franklin Township, opponents have been fighting off M. Rieder Companies' efforts to build 120 townhouses on the Brandywine tract near Route 57.
So far, one of the most effective weapons against unwanted development has been scraping up enough cash to buy and protect fields, farmlands and other wide open spaces. PRO has demonstrated its willingness to play an important role in these preservation efforts. Last year, PRO contributed$500,000 toward White Township's successful effort to save the 466-acre Buckhorn Creek parcel. Earlier this year, the nonprofit group secured a$500,000 state Green Acres grant to help Holland Township preserve a90-acre tract.
Now, PRO has secured more state money -- an additional $500,000 Green Acres matching grant. PRO Chairman Mike King says Washington and Franklin Township are strong contenders, and you can almost hear the fervent pleas from development opposition groups in each community: "Pick us. Please, pick us."
With their deep pockets and willingness to keep these battles going through the court system, developers too often win out. Communities in Warren and Hunterdon counties are fortunate that PRO is willing to help fight the good fight.