In January 1999 the Open Space Advisory Committee (OSAC) met for the first time. The Township Council established this committee in order that the Council would have a group of citizen volunteers and Township staff that was charged with developing and implementing a plan for preserving open space, farmland and historical properties.
The OSAC was formed after the voters approved a referendum in November 1998 that authorized the Council to collect up to three cents per hundred dollars of assessed value on all property in the Township and deposit it in an "Open Space Trust Fund." Taxes collected in this trust fund can only be utilized for "open space." However, as used in the Ordinance that established the Open Space Trust Fund, the term "open space" means, "Any land acquired, developed, maintained, or utilized for recreation and/or conservation purposes, for farmland or farmland preservation purposes, or for historic preservation purposes."
In November 2001, voters approved an amendment to the previous referendum by increasing the amount that the Township could collect from three cents per hundred to five cents per hundred dollars of assessed value. Currently, this open space tax brings over $5 million into the trust fund annually.
In 2001, the State of New Jersey 's Green Acres program approved the Township's Open Space Plan and awarded the Township a "Planning Incentive Grant." Under this state grant program, Franklin Township was approved for regular state funding in the form of matching grants. To date, the Township has received over $4.6 million dollars in grants from the State Green Acres program.
In 2001, the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) also approved the Township's "Farmland Preservation Plan" and, since then, has awarded the Township $10.3 million dollars to purchase the development rights on 25 farms. Additionally, Somerset County has contributed another 3.6 million to the Township’s farmland preservation efforts. Since 2001, 1,087 acres of farmland has been preserved in Franklin Township, through key partnerships with regional land trusts, Somerset County and the State Agriculture Development Committee.
In 2007, the State Agriculture Development Committee updated its rules and program regulations to require all participating municipalities and counties to develop a Comprehensive Farmland Preservation Plan. The purpose of the Plan is to strategically identify Project Areas (areas where agriculture is a priority use) along with specific properties that meet eligibility criteria for tillable acres and quality soils. In addition to this targeted planning approach, the new rules created a competitive funding source for municipalities and counties that exceed their base grant funding ($750,000 per year for municipalities and 1.5 million dollars for counties). In 2019, Franklin Township updated its Municipal Comprehensive Farmland Preservation Plan to meet this criteria, include the most recent Census of Agriculture data and discuss relevant polices related to agricultural uses, right-to-farm and stewardship
Few municipalities in New Jersey have been as aggressive in pursuing the preservation of open space and farmland and in securing outside sources of funding, as has Franklin Township. Though many may lament all the development that daily changes the landscape, Franklin Township has the financial means to preserve significant amounts of property in the coming years.