CEDAR GROVE, NJ - It was announced at Monday night’s Town Council meeting that Cedar Grove acquired the 53 acres of Newark Watershed property last week, purchased for $11.5 million.  Township Manager Tom Tucci said that this is “the biggest piece of property available in this Township and leaves it as open space for all time, to the benefit of generations to come.”

“The closing of the Newark Watershed property represents one of the most important land purchases in Cedar Grove history,” said Mayor Robbie Vargo.  “By completing this purchase, we were able to preserve over 50 acres of open space, maintain beautiful trails and protect this land from development.  I’m truly excited for the community, for the Township and for the future of Cedar Grove.”

During the meeting, Councilman Joseph Cicala addressed Vargo and asked the Council to give Tucci the authority to dedicate the land to the Open Space Trust Fund immediately, and Councilman Peter Tanella concurred.  Tucci said it was just a matter of just submitting the application to take the land out of developing rights forever.

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Vargo agreed with Cicala but mentioned the possibility of a future recreation center potentially at Community Park and asked for a legal opinion as to the ramifications of not dedicating the property to the Open Space Trust Fund right away.  Vargo said that a portion of the Watershed property could be used as an offset to potentially build a Community Center on another property.  He clarified that the recreation center is not agreed to or approved, but with Community Park being part of the Open Space Trust Fund, he asked to look into the regulations before dedicating the space. 

“The limited research that I did do, since Community Park is Green Acres right now, if you were to put a rec center on there, you have to provide the Open Space Trust Fund an equal amount or more of open space somewhere else in the community,” said Vargo.  “I don’t want to lose the opportunity.  We may ultimately decide that there is no rec center, so I just put it out there.  I don’t want to lose the option, so if we can get some more information on that process, that would be my only request.”

“My goal and our commitment is to keep the watershed property undeveloped and I am absolutely committed to that," Vargo said.  "My only intent is to obtain a legal opinion so that we can make a fully informed decision for the community, if in the event, a community center is contemplated on another site within the township. Making a decision with all of the information is my only objective.”

Ultimately, Cicala and Tanella agreed to let the Township attorney prepare a memo on the issue as long as it could be done quickly so that action would be taken at the staff meeting in two weeks. 

“From the moment I joined the Township Council in 2016, I envisioned a plan where the Township could purchase the Newark Watershed property and dedicate it to Open Space so that it could never be developed,” said Cicala.  “I’m ecstatic that this vision has been realized.  I would like to thank my colleagues on the governing body and our Township Manager, Tom Tucci, for all their hard work and dedication to the preservation of this property, both for today and into the future."

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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