Bucks County Herald

Bedminster invests in significant land preservation

Agreements of sale made for easements on two farms

CLIFF LEBOWITZ

After years of landowner inactivity in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, land preservation spending may be picking up steam in Bedminster Township.

At their May 10 public meeting, the township supervisors approved conservation easement agreements of sale for the 25.5-acre Zepp property on Kellers Church Road, and the 43.7-acre Leatherman parcel on Old Easton Road.

While the sales have several steps to go through before they can be finalized, the approval sets the price at $6,000 per acre, with the Leatherman property calling for an additional $1,500 per acre from the county.

Supervisor Glenn Wismer praised both of the new purchases as contributing to “nice groupings” with already preserved contiguous space. The township approved two other properties, totaling 75 acres, at the end of 2014, which brought the total in the township to over 7,000 acres.

After the meeting, officials noted the township’s open space fund now stands at about $2.3 million, thanks to the voter-approved ongoing contributions of 2.5 mills from the 7.5-mill real estate tax, and 0.25 of the 1.75 percent Earned Income Tax (EIT), which continued to accumulate during the period of landowner inactivity.

The fund contribution from the bond issue years ago was used up a while back, while the related debt payments have continued without overly stressing the township budget, which hasn’t featured a tax increase in a long time.

Early in 2014, the township was successful in obtaining a reduction from 4.5 percent to 3.02 percent on about half the total of its open space debt, with the balance continuing to be offered toward attracting better terms.

Also at the May 10 meeting, supervisors approved advertising of an ordinance to allow for the placement of stop signs on Bucks Road, between Blue School Road and Route 113, in recognition of township Engineer Tom Fountain’s findings of road narrowing and curvature that created sight distance problems. The site was noted as having been a problem for a long time, and accentuated by the current Route 313 bridge and culvert projects and their consequent detours.

Officials estimated those projects are to be completed by early June. Meanwhile, residents attending the meeting described serious problems resulting from the detours, including unauthorized tractor-trailer use, which has been ticketed by Bedminster police, and PennDOT not being allowed to construct barriers as an alternative to ignored detour signage. They also noted deep concern about deterioration and lack of shoulders on Old Bethlehem Road, as well as high risk of flooding there.

In light of the recent detour-related difficulties, supervisors unanimously authorized preparation of an ordinance that will allow the township to enact emergency, temporary traffic regulations anywhere within its borders.

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