Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Meter is (Still) Running, or How to Lose Open Space Without Really Trying

A few weeks ago, at the June 17 Board of Supervisors' meeting, new Supervisor Colleen Eckman lamented over having to release from agreement to purchase two open space properties the Township was trying to obtain. Part of the problem was that funding promised by the County had not come through, even though we had set aside the matching funds to purchase the parcels. Due to the well-publicized County's budget woes, they were unable to fulfill their part of the funding package and left the Township hanging.

I feel for Ms. Eckman. Unfortunately I believe it will be the first of many times over her term in office that the BOS will have to forego something they would like to do (and/or promised voters they would do) due to lack of available funds.

Earlier this year I mentioned that the BOS coalition led by Rick Brown elected to attempt to intervene in a zoning decision on behalf of a resident, and were rebuffed by the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. Undeterred, they pressed on, continuing to fight their uphill battle with your tax dollars by filing an appeal in the Commonwealth Court.

To date, in the first six months of this year, this little goose chase has cost Lower Providence taxpayers an additional $21,324.13 (and counting) in attorneys’ fees (the BOS and ZHB's solicitors, combined)  frivolously spent in pursuing an effort that is essentially one resident’s personal crusade, and which, if they were to win, would benefit absolutely no one other than legal counsel. At this rate, they are on pace to wind up the year at around a $45,000 spend for just this one case.

When will someone start to connect the dots and see that there is a cost to repaying apparent political favors with taxpayer money, and a cost to creating an inhospitable climate for viable commercial development and projects,  projects that bring tax dollars and jobs? Obviously there must be a balance; one extreme or the other doesn't work. Projects and the money they put into the township's coffers could have gone a long way toward providing us with the balance of the funds to purchase the properties without Montgomery County’s help. To  make good on vague campaign promises of being in favor of open space (aren't we all?), our BOS is going to have to become a lot more resourceful - and realistic - than they have demonstrated thus far and figure out how to accomplish this goal without being largely dependent upon other people's money.

Obviously, $45,000 by itself doesn't buy much, but as with anything else, if you watch the small dollars, the big ones take care of themselves.  At least we get our deposit back.

Now that those open space parcels have been released (although the Township is amending the purchase agreement to give us a right of first refusal should another buyer come along), I wonder who will buy them, and what they will put there. Last year, another prime piece of open space, the Downes farm on Woodland Avenue, became available. When I worked on updating the Open Space Plan in 2005, this property was viewed as a high acquisition priority. We were fortunate in that Pat Mascaro purchased the property and has pledged to preserve it, but we can't hope and pray that a benevolent benefactor comes to the rescue every time open space becomes available. 


The shadow said...


Thanks for the update.

I guess I should go to a few Supervisor meetings.

Who is the person that they are spending all of the taxpayer money for?

This sounds criminal.

Is anyone at the D.A's office looking into this?

Brenda Lain said...

Very well put Janice! You just can't argue with the truth.

Anonymous said...

Was this the open property next to the Audubon School? What a shame. MSD can't afford to buy it either obviously. We'll prob wind up with another bank there, because all the good businesess go up to Upper Prov or Limerick where they actually want the tax bucks they contribute to the community. If you wnt to go anywhere nice to eat you have to go there or KOP. Wake up LP!!