Democrats Point to Benefits of Open Space Fund

Democratic candidates for Madison Borough Council, Councilman John Hoover and former Councilman Bob Landrigan are enthusiastic supporters of the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, which has made possible numerous projects that have enhanced Madison’s quality of life. Needed improvements at Dodge Field and restoration of the Hartley Dodge Memorial plaza and east wing are near-term priorities.

MADISON – In a joint prepared statement, Democratic candidates for Madison Borough Council, Councilman John Hoover of Overhill Drive and former Councilman Bob Landrigan of Green Village Road express their continuing support of the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund and maintenance of the Municipal Open Space Tax at its present rate.  Hoover is running for re-election in 2020. Bob Landrigan previously served on the council from 2012 through 2017. “The candidates stated: “The availability of open spaces for active and passive recreation and the preservation of our many historic treasures help to make Madison such a desirable place to live. (Last year New Jersey Monthly magazine placed Madison at the top of the magazine’s ‘Best Places to Live’ list,) Recently, we have seen record usage of our open spaces as our residents deal with COVID-19 and many are grateful at the various options available to enjoy the outdoors in Madison.

Back in 2004 Madison residents approved a public referendum for a dedicated municipal tax to maintain and support an Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. Since then, the Luke Miller house was preserved, the historic James Library, home to the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts (METC) has benefited from a series of major exterior restoration projects, and several parcels of land have been purchased for passive and active recreation.

View the related article on the Madison Eagle: Madison Democrats point to benefits of Open Space Fund

Two of the parcels, the 49 acres for the Madison Recreation Complex (MRC) and the Bayley Ellard athletic fields were made possible by leveraging the borough’s open space dollars to qualify for grant money from the county and state. The purchase and development of these properties has provided the town with much needed playing fields, walking trails, a community garden, and aquifer recharge protection. 

Of the total $13 million paid for the 49 acres, $8.9 million or 78% came from state and county grants.  And thanks to the efforts of the borough administration and the active support of our legislative representatives in Trenton, Madison was granted an additional $500,000 in Green Acres funding in 2017 to help pay off the bonded debt (principal) incurred by the borough for its share of the cost of the MRC property.”  

Looking back, Bob Landrigan observed: “Since its inception, the Trust Fund and supporting Municipal Open Space Tax have received bipartisan support within the community. The initial effort to put the enabling referendum in front of Madison voters was led by Democrat Astri Baillie and Republican Donald Bowen. More recently though, there have been instances where Madison Republicans have called for reductions in the Open Space Tax rate.

John and I feel that this is shorted sighted.  A substantial portion of that annual Open Space tax revenue goes to paying down the debt incurred with the MRC and Bayley Ellard land purchases and from the installation of the turf fields at the very popular MRC. 

Read about John and Bob’s plans for sustainable infrastructure investment.

There is also so much to be done.  Historic properties, parks, and recreational facilities and equipment, all suffer from the ravages of time.  Buildings deteriorate, trails become overgrown, turf fields must be reskimmed, and equipment fails.  Collectively, these properties and parks contribute to Madison’s character and charm and they must be continually maintained and improved to meet the current and future needs of the community.  If not, they will eventually be lost to us.” 

“Right now, we have significant historic preservation needs,” stated John Hoover. “The ongoing restoration of the Museum of Early Trades & Crafts continues.  With the completion of the exterior restoration work, this year the museum will be receiving trust fund dollars to leverage grant money from the county for restoration of the basement area. Madison would not feel like Madison without this iconic and beautiful building.

Rebuilding the Hartley Dodge Memorial plaza is a long overdue need. Parts of the plaza are unsafe, particularly in winter.  Matching grant money has already been committed by the county for this critical project.  And the vacant ground and first floors of the east wing of this borough treasure are in states of near and total disrepair, respectively. $150,000 has already been committed by the state and the Madison Historical Society has offered to partner with the borough on an east wing restoration project. 

Earlier this year, the borough learned that the Madison Masonic Lodge was considering merging with the Morristown chapter and possibly selling the ca 1825 historic property on Main Street – the 19th century home of the Presbyterian Church of Madison. The borough has moved proactively to partner with the lodge in a joint effort to restore the building’s interior and create expanded public space for the Madison community. With committed help from the county and hopefully the state, this historic landmark will not have to be sold and possibly lost to demolition.” 

Madison also has a number of pressing recreation needs, particularly at the popular Dodge Field, added candidate Landrigan. “$363,000 of Trust Fund money was allocated in 2019 for the new restroom facility, which is currently under construction.  The adjoining fifteen-year-old playground is also in need of refurbishing and there is an active interest in creating a field house at the field as well as a playground and an ADA-compliant walk at the MRC.” 

The candidates concluded, “We fully support funding the Open Space, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Trust Fund with the Municipal Open Space Tax.  Looking back, the Trust Fund has made possible numerous projects that have enhanced Madison’s quality of life in many ways, we have been able to protect our drinking water, preserve our historic sites, and provide the active and passive recreational facilities our residents clearly want.  Looking to the future, the fund will continue to benefit Madison as it has in the past.”  

Read more about the Madison Democrat’s 2020 candidates for borough council and see what their vision and priorities are for Madison.