New Hanover Town­ship as­sesses fu­ture needs

New town­ship build­ing, open space pur­chases discussed

The Boyertown Area Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

NEW HANOVER » When the Delaware Val­ley Re­gional Plan­ning Com­mis­sion ranked pro­jected per­cent­age pop­u­la­tion growth by 2025 in the Philadel­phia re­gion, New Hanover Town­ship came in at No. 2.

That’s No. 2 out of 37 town­ships, in eight coun­ties, in two states.

The pro­jected ad­di­tion of about 6,800 peo­ple by 2025 rep­re­sents a pop­u­la­tion in­crease of 98 per­cent since 2000 for this once ru­ral town­ship.

The U.S. Cen­sus Bureau cur­rently es­ti­mates New Hanover’s pop­u­la­tion at 12,243. With no less than 37 de­vel­op­ment projects in var­i­ous stages of the ap­proval pipe­line — with the po­ten­tial to add an­other 5,000 res­i­dents to the mix — town­ship of­fi­cials are look­ing at a 41 per­cent pop­u­la­tion in­crease in just a few years.

Any way you choose to count it up, that’s ex­plo­sive growth and, as Town­ship Man­ager Jamie Gwynn sees it, the town­ship su­per­vi­sors had bet­ter start plan­ning for now.

“We’ve learned you can never buy ev­ery­thing, and that the best part­ners are mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.” Peter Williamson, Natura Lands

So that’s what they were do­ing dur­ing a work­shop ses­sion March 26 when they ex­am­ined town­ship fa­cil­i­ties and open space — both of which will be af­fected by the com­ing pop­u­la­tion wave.

Town­ship fa­cil­i­ties

The cur­rent town­ship build­ing on North Char­lotte Street, which houses both the ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices and the po­lice de­part­ment, is 40 years old and has a very leaky flat roof, ac­cord­ing to Su­per­vi­sor Phil Agliano.

“I can’t count how many times the smoke alarm has gone off be­cause wa­ter got into the light fix­tures,” he said.

The ques­tion Gwynn posed to the su­per­vi­sors is, what should be done about the cur­rent build­ing?

To help an­swer it, he pro­vided three pos­si­ble op­tions drafted by an ar­chi­tect who has de­signed mul­ti­ple mu­nic­i­pal build­ings. The town­ship could:

• Ren­o­vate the cur­rent build­ing and build a new po­lice sta­tion on the cur­rent par­cel;

• Knock down the cur­rent build­ing and build an en­tirely new fa­cil­ity;

• Look at sim­i­lar op­tions at the re­cre­ation cen­ter on Hoff­mansville Road.

Or it could look at other op­tions, like whether it makes sense to try to ob­tain the va­cant YMCA just up the road on North Char­lotte Street.

It’s all on the ta­ble for con­sid­er­a­tion, he said.

Very pre­lim­i­nary es­ti­mates for these op­tions range from $3 mil­lion to $5 mil­lion.

While that’s a lot of money, the town­ship is in an ex­cel­lent fi­nan­cial po­si­tion, said Gwynn.

With a fund bal­ance that is 58 per­cent of the an­nual $13 mil­lion ex­pen­di­ture, the town­ship, which has not raised prop­erty taxes in 13 years, can af­ford to bor­row for the con­struc­tion with­out rais­ing taxes to make the bond pay­ments, he said.

The su­per­vi­sors in­di­cated a pre­lim­i­nary pref­er­ence for keep­ing all func­tions — high­way, po­lice and ad­min­is­tra­tion — at the cur­rent lo­ca­tion and will con­sider var­i­ous op­tions while await­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion from the ar­chi­tect at the May meet­ing.

“This is a two- or three­year process,” Gwynn said of the de­ci­sion on town­ship fa­cil­i­ties.

Open space preser­va­tion

The other ma­jor topic of dis­cus­sion was the preser­va­tion of open space.

With 37 de­vel­op­ment projects and an­other 2,000 housing units in the pipe­line, the time to start pre­serv­ing open space is now, said Gwynn.

For ex­am­ple, should ei­ther of the town­ship’s two golf course be sold for de­vel­op­ment, it could add 700 more housing units.

“You have the abil­ity to shape the next 50 years of this town­ship. It’s a great honor,” Gwynn told the su­per­vi­sors.

The town­ship levies an earned in­come tax of .15 per­cent ded­i­cated to an open space fund and, other than the pur­chase of land be­hind the town­ship build­ing to pre­vent its de­vel­op­ment, it has been largely un­used, Gwynn said.

It now stands at $1.3 mil­lion and by 2023, it will have grown to $3.8 mil­lion if the town­ship does not be­gin to tap it.

“If we’re not go­ing to buy open space, we should stop col­lect­ing the tax,” he said plainly.

But in ad­di­tion to any parcels the town­ship may want to buy, it could stretch its open space dol­lar by en­gag­ing in “con­ser­va­tion ease­ments,” said Peter Williamson from the non-profit group Nat­u­ral Lands, un­til re­cently known as Nat­u­ral Lands Trust.

He ex­plained that “con­ser­va­tion ease­ments,” although “com­pli­cated” have the ad­van­tage of pro­tect­ing land from de­vel­op­ment with­out out­right pur­chase.

In essence, a land owner sells the de­vel­op­ment rights — usu­ally the dif­fer­ence be­tween the land’s value un­de­vel­oped and de­vel­oped — and the ease­ment is held by Nat­u­ral Lands and not the town­ship.

This al­lows the land to re­main pro­tected through po­lit­i­cal changes at the town­ship level.

“We’ve learned you can never buy ev­ery­thing, and that the best part­ners are mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties,” said Williamson.

That’s be­cause town­ship of­fi­cials know the prop­er­ties and prop­erty own­ers in­ti­mately, know which prop­er­ties are the best tar­gets for preser­va­tion and, as in New Hanover’s case, of­ten have a pot of money set aside for preser­va­tion.

Part­ner­ing with Nat­u­ral Lands not only gives the town­ship ac­cess to their ex­per­tise, Williamson said, but to its fund­ing net­work, which would al­low New Hanover to ob­tain pub­lic and pri­vate grants for which town­ship open space money can be used as match­ing money — mak­ing it go far­ther.

“New Hanover is per­fectly sit­u­a­tion to take ad­van­tage of the land preser­va­tion en­vi­ron­ment, be­cause you have an open space fund,” said Williamson. “You don’t have to just spend your own money to do it , you can ex­tend your money,” he said not­ing Nat­u­ral Lands is the sec­ond largest re­cip­i­ent of state grant money in the re­gion.

He said a typ­i­cal con­ser­va­tion ease­ment in a town­ship New Hanover’s size is be­tween 20 to 50 acres and Nat­u­ral Lands “can do things as slowly or as quickly as the town­ship wants.”

Su­per­vi­sor Kurt Ze­browski said he does not want the town­ship to be in­volved in any em­i­nent do­main pro­ceed­ings. “I want will­ing sell­ers,” he said.

“We’re Band Aid­ing right now,” said Su­per­vi­sors Chair­man Charles Garner Jr.

Gwynn said the town­ship has plans to be­gin re-writ­ing its com­pre­hen­sive plan “and we’re go­ing to need to do long-term plan­ning that changes zon­ing,” Garner added. “It’s go­ing to take a while.”

In the mean­time, the su­per­vi­sors did agree in con­cept with Gwynn’s sug­ges­tion that an open space com­mit­tee — with one mem­ber from the parks and re­cre­ation board, one from the en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee, at least one su­per­vi­sor, and sev­eral res­i­dents — be formed to be­gin to iden­tify pri­or­i­ties for ac­qui­si­tion.

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

New Hanover Town­ship Man­ager Jamie Gwynn, top left, leads the town­ship su­per­vi­sors through a dis­cus­sion of the town­ship’s 37 ac­tive de­vel­op­ment projects and re­main­ing open space dur­ing a work­shop March 26.

EVAN BRANDT - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

The cur­rent town­ship build­ing on North Char­lotte Street houses both the po­lice de­part­ment and the ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices, and has a very leaky roof.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.