BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ [Updated] Still a work in progress, the township's Farmstead Arts public center is seeking further improvements and to make the public property safer and more usable for visitors with nearly $200,000 in funding already approved by Somerset County in October 2018.

At its Tuesday meeting, the Bernards Township Committee voted to authorize the Friends of the Kennedy Martin Stelle Farmstead to use a $197,802 grant funded and approved under the Somerset County Historic Preservation Grant program. However, the Township Committee held off on approving an overall Concept Plan for the Farmstead Arts property after neighbors raised concerns about a proposed driveway loop on the latest version of the plan.

The Farmstead's president, Ann Rosenblum, said that technically the historic grant money must be spent within a two-year period. 

Sign Up for Basking Ridge Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

The funding would be used to "improve the overall usability, accessibility and safety" of the Farmstead Arts, which offers art exhibits and lessons and other public events on the township-owned tract at 450 King George Road. There are two large historic structures, in addition to some smaller buildings, on the property where many of the events and activities are held. 

Since opening to the public in 2010, the property has received multiple governmental grants to upgrade the historic facilities. Bernards Township acquired the property with municipal open space funds in 1999; appointed a task force to preserve the Farmstead in 2001; and was successful in requesting and receiving preservation grant funding totaling $839,657, according to the resolution to apply for more funds that is on Tuesday night's meeting agenda.

The Friends organization proposes to use the 2018 on improvements that include: improving safety and accessibility enhancements with two handicapped-compliant parking spaces, and a walkway from the handicapped-accessible parking spaces, and between the English barn and cow shed; adding a reinforced cement slab and incoming electrical service to the cow shed; creating a terrace over the original Dairy barn foundation; and installing a proper egress door in the cow shed, according to the agenda.

The improvements that would be funded under the 2018 grant do not include development of a proposed one-way driveway that would loop behind the English barn.

Residents at the meeting expressed fears that drivers would not necessarily respect one-way signs and that lights would shine into their homes on bordering properties. They also suggested alternative routes for the driveway. [More to come]

The agenda, posted online, also included authorization of public expenditures and also several proposed appointments.

Among the appointments on Tuesday was the hiring of Jonathan Blank as assistant township engineer, in order to fill a vacancy in the township engineering department.

The Township Committee also approved a resolution to approve the purchase of three  2020 Ford Police Interceptor SUVs, through the Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council Contract, to Beyer of Morristown, in an amount not to exceed $96,106.

Final vote on ordinance to spend more than $1M on capital improvements throughout township

Also this Tuesday, the Township Committee gave final approval to an ordinance to earmark $1,070,000 in township funds for capital projects such as road and sidewalk improvements throughout the municipality. The funds would come from the municipal budget.

The bulk of the $1 million will be set aside for projects to include road resurfacing, drainage repairs and improvements, pedestrian safety, and sidewalk/bikeway repairs and improvements, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance was introduced by a vote of the Township Committee on Feb. 25.