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D&R Greenway preserves its 253rd property

D&R GREENWAY – D&R Greenway Land Trust announced the preservation of its 253rd property since its 1989 founding– the 35-acre Dr. Charles and Edith Howard Farm in Montgomery Township.  Dr. Charles Howard and his wife, Edith, formerly Princeton residents, bought the circa 1750 farmhouse and 10 acres in 1976, adding an additional 25 acres three years later.

President and CEO Linda Mead states, “A local farm, the Howard’s open agricultural land is important to the rural character of the Montgomery community. It is surrounded by development.  The next crop would surely have been houses, if the Howards hadn’t made the important move to preserve it.”

The property owners sold the development rights at a bargain sale price, contributing a portion of the value.  Funds were provided by Somerset County and the NJ State Agriculture Development Committee, with support from Montgomery Township.  “D&R Greenway was the glue that held everything together, “adds Ms. Mead.

Freeholder Deputy Director Mark Caliguire, who serves as liaison to the Agriculture Development Board, declares “Preserving the Howard Farm adds a significant property to Somerset County’s preserved farmland inventory and helps in creating the ‘farmbelt’ that the county Agriculture Development Board has envisioned for this area,” Montgomery’s Mayor Rich Smith noted, “The Township is excited to see another local family farm preserved, and extends our thanks to the State Agriculture Development Committee and Somerset County for funding the project, and to D&R Greenway for structuring the deal and shepherding it to the finish line. Purchases like this demonstrate our dedication to maintaining the rural character of Montgomery Township.”

Background

Dr. Howard, a retired radiologist, maintained a practice in Princeton for 44 years.  He and his wife, Edith, raised four children on the land, soon beginning to farm. He acquired tractors, hay balers and several Angus cows. The cows, numbering close to 30 at one time, were mainly pets, but on occasion became beef for the consumption of family members and neighbors.

Originally, the Howards thought of the land as an investment and thought they’d one day sell it to developers. “It was an alternative 401K plan,” is how Dr. Howard puts it.

Over the years, thinking about grandchildren and neighbors, Dr. Howard and his wife decided to keep the land. Montgomery Township’s open space committee originally approached the Howards’ about selling development rights in 2008.  D&R Greenway Land Trust became involved in 2011.

Dr. Howard met Wade Martin of Morgan Stanley while having breakfast at the Harlingen deli one morning. It was a chance encounter, but Martin had been working with Linda Mead and D&R Greenway for more than 15 years on land preservation, and often advocates for land preservation as a smart investment.

Martin sketched out the plan for Dr. Howard on a paper napkin, showing how selling the preservation rights would be more financially advantageous, in the long haul, than selling to developers.

“I show clients the difference between how much money you get and how much money you keep when you sell to developers,” says Martin, also a resident of Belle Mead. “Charlie could have sold to a developer but he would have lost his view and had to pay capital gains taxes and rollback taxes, equal to three years of property taxes for each lot. A lot of people don’t understand these taxes, but Linda Mead and I have made deals where the landowner is better off preserving and utilizing tax deductions, than selling to developers and paying taxes. You still keep your land and your view, and it’s better for the environment. That’s what we teach at Morgan Stanley – to get our clients to think holistically. Most people need the income but don’t want to develop the property, so preservation is a great step to take. People just have to do the numbers – which is what we did on a napkin at the deli.”

After outlining the plan, Mead and D&R Greenway brought together the township, county and state to provide the funding – something a single entity could not do alone.

The Howards get to benefit from the sale of the development rights in their lifetime as well as enjoy the good feeling of preserving their land. More than 20 houses backing up to the farm get to enjoy the view, as well as a place where young ones can play and dogs can frolic.

“Preserving the land, we can maintain it in perpetuity in two ways,” says Dr. Howard. “The Township and community keep the land forever and we get to enjoy it while we’re still around. The true ‘investment’ we made all those years ago had been, in reality, an investment in our family and our lives. Now, it’s an investment in the community, too.”

One Response to D&R Greenway preserves its 253rd property

  1. Carolyn Edelmann

    January 23, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Thank you for running this entire release, with Wade Martin’s excellent explanation of “You keep your land and your view, and it’s better for the environment.”

    It’s true, as Wade reveals, “Most people need the income, but don’t want to develop the property.”

    With these strong partnerships, these cross-pollinations at the individual, group, municipalities, the State, and financial levels, we can carry on saving vital New Jersey land, especially farms.