BERNARDSVILLE, NJ -- The borough this week passed ordinances appropriating a total of $2.18 million from its Open Space Trust Fund to purchase two properties that it intends to use for recreation and open space purposes.
Bernardsville is purchasing the property at 271 Mine Brook Road for $1.55 million and 261 Claremont Road for $630,000. Mayor Mary Jane Canose recently clarified the borough's motivation behind buying the subdivisions.
"We’ve got three properties (we purchased) in short time frame, and the public is a little confused what we are doing and why," said Canose, referring to the aforementioned plots as well as a 5-acre property at 251 Claremont Road. "271 Mine Brook is the old Dembrowski Estate, and we introduced one ordinance to buy it with Open Space funds and another to bond for the purchase. There is someone interested in buying the mansion on the property, and another resident whose property abuts in the back who wants to buy an acre."
The mansion at 271 Mine Brook Road, just west of downtown Bernardsville, is a 10,593 square-foot structure with eight bedrooms and seven bathrooms.
"We are exploring how we could subdivide this property. If we do subdivide and sell off pieces, we can reimburse our bond with the Open Space money," Canose explained in an exclusive interview with TAPinto Somerset Hills. "There are lots of possibilities. It's a beautiful piece of property, one of last large pieces of property close to town still available. It is zoned residential, and part of (the reason for buying it) is to preserve a stretch along Route 202 to keep the entrance to town looking rural.
"The previous owner had done some gardens, and there are almost all evergreen-type trees, with very few dissiduous trees," the mayor said. "The further side of the property is open fields, and we could certainly use more fields for soccer and lacrosse."
There also are bridal paths behind the home that Canose said "lend themselves to being trails."
Although the borough acquired Peter’s Tract off of Claremont Road many years ago, the plot has remained inaccessible to the public due to the layout of the surrounding area. The newly purchased lot should eventually facilitate access and provide additional space for parking and recreation.
Of the Claremont Road properties that comprise about 30 acres adjacent to Peter's Tract, Canose said, "Those 30 acres have not been accessible. The one property has easier access into the park, and the other one is a little lower down, but together it allows us to make parking and easier access. There is a house at 251 Claremont that we are planning to keep and use for recreational activities and storage. The one next to it, 261, has a house that is not in good condition.
"The Open Space Committee will be putting out a survey to see what people envision for (the Claremont Road plots). The goal is for that to be passive. We are looking at more of a passive type usage. Disc golf is very popular, or we could use it for trails or small camping areas for scouts. We want to keep that more 'passive' than the Mine Brook Road property."
The mayor pointed out that all three of the properties are eligible for 50 percent of the purchase cost. The borough's Open Space Committee "has a comprehensive open space and recreation plan," she said, "and if you put a plan together and have it approved by the Planning Board, Green Acres will reimburse (the municipality) 50 percent."