Bed­min­ster preser­va­tion bor­row­ing all used

News-Herald (Perkasie, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Bob Keeler

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.”

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