Blogger's Note: Today's question from former S. Whitehall Comm'r Brad Osborne is focused on farmland preservation.
The proliferation of large commercial and residential developments has brought particular attention to the potential use of the remaining undeveloped land in South Whitehall. Landowners and developers have rights. The township has planning tools. Together, a nice future can be achieved.
Today’s Candidate Question: The 2009 Comprehensive Plan called for the township to “assess the public’s view on farmland preservation and the use of taxpayer money to preserve more farms.” The Plan also asked the township to “consider a municipal farmland preservation program through the purchase of development rights.” No farmland has been preserved since the 2009 Comprehensive was adopted over 10 years ago. Would you support using taxpayer money to preserve farmland in South Whitehall?
Christina “Tori” Morgan (R): No response.
Joe Setton (D): No response.
David Kennedy (R): Yes, it is important for current residents and future generations to have this space. An increase in taxes would NOT be my recommendation; I believe there needs to a total overview of township finances to determine areas that could be cut back or eliminated. Although not possible at the present time (due to audits not being completed), floating bonds with the current low interest environment would generate monies for these projects with the debt being paid for from the above-mentioned cuts.
Monica Hodges (R): We should not raise taxes, for any reason, unless absolutely necessary. However, our citizens should decide if farmland preservation is worth a tax increase. This would be determined through surveys to citizens for their input, and through a referendum for voters to approve or disapprove. I would also investigate using the Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program to fund preservation. Other ideas include giving tax breaks to farm owners who give development rights to the township, adding agricultural zoning to our Comprehensive Plan and applying for funds from the state, county, and through grants for buying development rights. I would also reach out to other townships who have successfully implemented preservation to get more ideas. I am looking forward to cultivating positive relationships with landowners and respectfully working with them.
Thomas J. Johns (D): The first step to my deciding whether taxpayer money should be used to preserve farmland in South Whitehall would be to consider the recommendations made in the 2009 Comprehensive Plan. It appears from the question that there are two alternatives – the use of taxpayer money to preserve farms or the feasibility of creating a municipal farmland preservation program through the purchase of development rights. I would also review the Federal, State, and County plans as models. The second step would necessitate the assessment of the public’s view on farmland preservation. Of course, greenspace appeals to many residents. However, a resolution as to how to preserve farmland cannot be delayed another ten years.