Byram agrees to demolition of Jones Lane House

Property will be used for recreational activities

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by Alley Shubert

— The demolition of a house located on Jones Lane was a topic of discussion at Byram Township’s recent council meeting.

In 2000, voters approved the township’s Open Space Tax, and some of the funds collected were used to purchase the property and develop it as Tamarack Park, located on Rt. 206 near Andover. The $4 million purchase was funded through the State of New Jersey’s Green Acres Program, Sussex County’s Open Space Fund, foundations, and private funders, with a portion coming from Byram Township.

The house-in-question for demolition was acquired by the township as part of the purchase of the property. The structure, which includes a septic system, a well, and an oil tank in the basement, is too old and damaged to be useful for property which will soon be for recreational activities.

Township Manager Joe Sabatini previously addressed this matter to the Open Space Committee and now sought guidance from the council on the situation.

Sabatini’s said that his major concern was if tearing down the structure to build a new one would pose a threat to losing a valuable footprint, given the rules of the Highlands Act.

“We are not losing the ability to have a building there,” said Councilman Scott Olson. “The footprint can be repurposed for something much more pleasant and appropriate.”

It took several years for all pieces to come together and a contract to be signed for the Tamarack Park project. Afterwards, the town faced a greater challenge with an historic study.

The historic study was put into effect in a search for items such as Indian artifacts, often found near lakes and shorelines. No artifacts were found, which is understandable since one of the township’s bodies of water, Cranberry Lake, was not in existence during that period.

Olson said that the property had been cleared in the 1930’s for farming, and “The only historic value nearby is the Sussex Branch Railroad bed.”

Now, as the final stages of planning come underway and important permits are coming along, the council deemed the house on Jones Lane as unsuitable for recreational use.

Olson explained that there is an extremely tight space between the house and the garage, which the town had hoped to use the garage as storage space for game equipment. Plans now call for that space to be used for an access driveway to the park, so the garage must also be removed.

“It is a small, old home with a lot of little rooms and it does not fit the need for larger recreational space,” said Olson. “A new gazebo-like structure could be built but it must be used for outdoor recreation, with only a portion allowed for storage.”

Township Attorney Thomas Collins suggested a motion from the mayor and council as all unanimously agreed on the demolition of the house.

The money used to tear down the structure will be from Open Space funds, with 50 percent reimbursed from the State Green Acres program.

“The hope is that we will start and finish in the fall,” Sabatini said.

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