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1/3/2011 - Hamilton Looks to Preserve Farm Next to Sayen Gardens with Available Open Space Funding

Hamilton Looks to Preserve Farm Next to Sayen Gardens with Available Open Space Funding

(Hamilton) – Sayen Gardens is one of Hamilton Township’s special treasures.  The park and botanical gardens are home to over 250,000 flowering bulbs in the springtime, the historic Sayen House, Hamilton’s annual Azalea Festival held each Mother’s Day, and is enjoyed by thousands of township residents each year. 


Right next to the park, on Hughes Drive, sits the 6.75 acre Hoagland Farm.  Originally, the property was owned by Frederick Sayen of the Sayen Family, whom Sayen Gardens is named after. 


Photographic records indicate that the property was farmed back in the 1940’s.  And in 1981, William R. Hoagland, Sr., now deceased, acquired the property from Frederick Sayen.  Eventually, the Hoagland farm served as a garden center and tree nursery until 1994.      


Today, the property is owned by William Hoagland’s son, John, and his wife.  And their decision to sell the property has created a unique opportunity for Hamilton Township – a chance to preserve the land, which is directly connected to Sayen Gardens, as open space.  The preservation would also prevent the possibility of the land, which could have as many as 9 buildable residential lots, from being developed.   


“There are very few, large parcels of land left in our community that are both undeveloped and conducive to conversion into residential development, based upon the access to public water, electricity and our sewer system.  Those factors made this property prime for residential development,” explains Hamilton Township Planning Official Robert Poppert. 


But in the current real estate market, Township officials understand the reality -- they might not have an opportunity like this again to preserve the farmland.


“There may be no better time than during this current real estate market to preserve this parcel of land, since values will likely increase in the future as the real estate market rebounds,” says Hamilton Township Business Administrator John Ricci.  “From a financial standpoint, it presents a very compelling case to preserve this land now.” 


The State of New Jersey’s Green Acres Program, under the Department of Environmental Protection, certified a market value of the Hoagland property at $990,000 in October of this year.  But through negotiations, the Township was able to settle on a price of $860,000 -- $130,000 or just over 13% less than the State Green Acres certification dollar amount.


In addition to seeking State and Mercer County grant funding for the acquisition, Hamilton will use Township open space funds that are earmarked for preservation purposes and cannot be used for other purposes, to preserve the property. 


While the Township has not finalized immediate plans for the property following its acquisition, officials are considering the potential for expanding recreational walking trails, the ability to increase parking for park visitors at the front portion of the Hoagland farm, and the feasibility of using the current Hoagland property greenhouse for floricultural purposes that will benefit Sayen Gardens.


“Sayen Gardens is a true gem of our community; and the opportunity to expand the property through this open space acquisition is a decision that I believe will benefit our community and future Hamiltonians for years to come,” says Hamilton Township Mayor John Bencivengo.  “It would be such a shame to lose this farmland to residential development when our entire community can enjoy the preservation of this land and the expansion of Sayen Gardens.”  

The preservation of this land will be considered by the Hamilton Township Council during its meeting on Tuesday, January 4, 2011.