Toms River council members move a controversial open space purchase ordinance forward again.

Toms River Town Hall (Jason Allentoff, Townsquare Media NJ)

The measure, approved in its first reading Tuesday afternoon, calls for buying the former Camp Albocondo property for $4,100,000 from conservation group Trust for Public Land using money from the Township's Open Space Trust Fund and from the Ocean County Open Space Committee also known as the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee.

A similar ordinance drew fierce election-year criticism from former Toms River Mayor Paul Brush. He accused council members of trying to buy the land to help out a politically-connected constituent for $5.5 million dollars in 2010.

Brush, who's on the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee, said that when he was Mayor, the previous owner committed to donate 44 acres of the former camp site to the township in exchange for approval to rezone 15 developable acres fronting Whitesville Road from single housing units to multi-housing units to build a senior housing complex. However, the senior housing complex and land donation fell through when the market soured.

Several years ago, Former Toms River Schools Superintendent Mike Ritacco also attempted to buy the former camp ground from the previous owners for $7 million to construct a full time kindergarten and for use by the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science. However, that deal never materialized after drawing public outrage when they learned that the original owners purchased the property for a little over $3 million and stood to make a $4 million dollar profit.

Nonprofit environmental group, Trust for Public Land purchased the Camp Albocondo Property for $4.2 million in 2013 from disgraced former attorney Dale Orlovsky of Toms River and a group of investors. The former Camp and its buildings have been abandoned for over a decade and have been in a state of deterioration.

The Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee is scheduled to take up the matter at its next public meeting on Thursday, April 24th.