Preservation and Recreation Needs
Assessment and Action Plan
A public hearing on the Preservation and Recreation Needs Assessment and Action Plan was held on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers in the Franklin Township Municipal Building located at 475 DeMott Lane, Somerset.
The "Open Space Tax" and Trust Fund
In 1998, the voters of Franklin Township approved a referendum which established the Township's “open space tax” which funds the Township's Open Space, Recreation and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund ("Trust Fund").
Pursuant to State Law, the Trust Fund may only be used for the following:
- Acquisition of lands for recreation and conservation purposes;
- Development of such lands;
- Maintenance of such lands;
- Preservation of historic resources; or
- Payment of debt service on the above.
Since its creation, the Trust Fund has been used primarily to implement the Township’s open space, farmland and historic preservation efforts (95% of Trust Fund dollars spent thus far). To date, less than 5% of Trust Fund dollars spent has gone towards park development and improvements.
The Need to Develop a Plan for Future Use of the Trust Fund
While there remains an on-going desire to utilize the Trust Fund for preservation, in recent years there has been increasing pressure to utilize the Trust Fund for additional permitted purposes including park development and improvements.
With increasing and competing demands for use of the Trust Fund, a need arose to develop a plan that:
(1) identifies and evaluates short-, mid-, and long-term alternatives regarding use of the Trust Fund; and
(2) conducts an analysis of the fiscal feasibility of all demands on the Trust Fund in light of existing and projected future Trust Fund balances.
The Township hired the firm Brandstetter Carroll Inc. to assist in the preparation of such a plan. The plan, entitled the " Preservation and Recreation Needs Assessment and Action Plan", consists of the following components:
- A review of previous Township studies that pertain to the delivery of parks, recreation facilities, open space, and services in Franklin Township.
- A review of Township population and land use trends.
- Preparation of a parks and recreation facilities and programs inventory including a discussion of facilities by park type and a discussion of parks, recreation facilities, and open space provided by the County, Township, State, schools, not-for-profit organizations, and other providers.
- Preparation of a Comprehensive Needs Analysis based on recreation facility level of service guidelines, public workshops, surveys of the general public, and meetings with stakeholders and special interest groups.
- Benchmarking to other parks and recreation agencies throughout New Jersey to develop comparisons to their budgets, programs, land, athletic fields, recreation facilities, and staffing.
- Recommendations for improvements to existing parks.
- Recommendations for land and new parks.
- Preparation of conceptual plans for selected sites based on recommendations.
- Identification of the fiscal needs of the various potential uses of the Trust Fund.
- An Action Plan identifying the recommendations and proposed uses of the Trust Fund over a twenty year period.
A concerted effort was made throughout the development of this Plan to elicit input from the public and from the various organizations that serve the Township. The following methods were employed to generate public input and involvement:
- Statistically Valid Mail/Phone Survey - The Township commissioned a professionally-conducted survey designed to obtain statistically valid results from households throughout Franklin Township. Due to the methods employed, the results of the random sample of households has a 95% level of confidence with a precision of at least +/- 4.0%. Therefore, the results of the survey are highly representative of the views of Franklin Township residents. In addition, a separate, web-based survey was also made available to allow participation by residents not randomly selected as part of the mail/ phone survey
- Stakeholder Meetings - Focus group meetings were conducted with over 35 stakeholder groups representing: sports organizations; community organizations; various Township departments, commissions, committees, staff and elected officials; and community organizations.
- Series of Public Meetings - A series of public meetings have been held. The initial public workshop was conducted on April 14, 2011. The second public meeting was held on September 19th 2011. The third public meeting was held on March 6, 2012.
- Review and Input of Draft Recommendations by the Township's Open Space Advisory Committee, Recreation Advisory Council and Planning Board - Draft recommendations of the Plan were reviewed by the Township Open Space Advisory Committee and Planning Board at their respective public meetings in December 2011 and a follow-up joint meeting of the Steering Committee, Open Space Advisory Committee and Recreation Advisory Council was conducted in January 2012.
The Preservation and Recreation Needs Assessment and Action Plan is available here for review....
A hard copy will also be available for review in the office of the Township Clerk.