Bedminster preservation borrowing all used
There will soon be more than 5,500 acres in Bedminster that are in farmland preservation programs and cannot be developed, but it could be awhile before that number increases again.
At its Feb. 13 meeting, the Bedminster Township Board of Supervisors approved buying the development rights to land at Bucks and Ridge roads owned by Scott Hutchinson and Karen Lien.
About 118 acres of the about 130 acres on the tract will be included in the conservation easement, with the township paying $6,000 per acre, a total of $715,188, Jack Terry, township manager, said. Closing on the deal is scheduled for April 1 or before, he said.
The township’s payment, though, will use up all the money it had available for land preservation.
Voter approved referendums in 1997, 2002 and 2005 each allowed Bedminster to borrow $2.5 million for land preservation, cumulatively giving $7.5 million. Additional Bucks County open space funding put the total available during that time period at about $8 million, Glenn Wismer, board chairman, said.
Most of that money went to buying conservation easements, under which the current owner continues to own the land and can sell it, but
the property is preserved for agricultural use and cannot be developed.
Anyone interested in applying to have their farm put in the land preservation programs can still contact the Land Preservation Advisory Committee and it may be possible to purchase the development rights to some small tracts, but the municipality will have to try to build up its funding before any larger tracts can be added, Terry said.
The Land Preservation Advisory Committee, which has been meeting each month, has, instead, now changed to hold- ing meetings every three months, he said.
A portion of both the earned income tax and property taxes goes to the land preservation programs. The rate is 0.25 percent of earned income and 2.5 mills of the 7.5 mill property tax rate.
Little of that is available for additional land preservation at this time, though.
“Most of that’s going to pay back the loans we took out to purchase the conservation easements,” Terry said.
There are now 5,487 acres of preserved land in Bedminster, Patty McVaugh, administrative assistant to the township manager, said. If deed restricted land is added, there are 7,161 acres that cannot be developed, she said. There are other organizations involved and the township did not provide all the funding for the land preservation totals, she said.
In another matter at the meeting, Terry said Nicholas Virnelson has been hired as a Bedminster poOLFH RIfiFHU.
Virnelson was chosen after several rounds of narrowing down the about 75 applicants for the job, Terry said.
“:H PHW WKH QHW RIfiFHU and we were impressed,” Wismer said. “We’re confiGHQW KH’OO EH DEOH WR GR the job.”