The mayor of Manalapan New Jersey could receive over $1 million of taxpayer money depending on a vote by the New Jersey State Agricultural Development Committee. After purchasing a parcel of New Jersey farmland, Mayor Andrew Lucas applied for a state Planning Incentive Grant.
The grants in question, the Municipal Planning Incentive Grants, were designed by the state to protect New Jersey farmland from urban development. New Jersey, like many other states, has long experienced a decline in farmland as urban and suburban centers expanded. The PI Grants offer farmers state funding in exchange for easements on their land preventing urban development.
The controversy over the land deal has arisen over Mayor Lucas’ refusal to disclose the price he paid for the land in question. By purchasing the Limited Liability Company that owned the land directly, rather than buying the land itself, municipal records do not show the price or value of the land. Opponents are worried that Mayor Lucas is manipulating the intent of the PI Grant program and are concerned over the lack of transparency in the entire process.
Supporters, however, believe that the deal will preserve valuable New Jersey farmland and will prevent unwanted urban sprawl. Given the intensity of the debate at both the state and federal level regarding the efficacy of agricultural subsidies and grants, some believe that the fight over this particular New Jersey farm is serving as a stand in for a larger debate on farm programs.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer