Letter: Vote to support open space

Chester County’s unspoiled scenic landscapes are priceless. But as you drive around Chester County these days, you can’t miss the bulldozers, flattened brown earth and construction equipment in fields that were previously open and green or full of thriving crops. The dwindling open scenic landscapes we all enjoy are under threat as pressure from developers steadily increases due to projected population growth. Between 2010 and 2040, population is expected to increase 29.8% in Chester County, with some townships expected to grow more than 40%.  But development to support this population growth is not a foregone conclusion.

Newlin, East Bradford, East Brandywine, West Brandywine, Kennett, London Grove and other townships have already passed an earned income tax referendum to protect open space, some have yet to do so. This November 7th, West Bradford Township’s ballot will contain a referendum to secure funding for open space preservation via a one quarter of one percent annual earned income tax.

Additional housing development, while increasing a township’s tax base, actually costs residents more than what the additional tax base brings in due to increased infrastructure (sewer, roads, schools, etc.) and community services costs.  These costs are permanent, so while the developer profits and leaves, residents permanently shoulder the additional costs of the new housing.  A general rule of thumb is that for every $1 of additional taxes brought in via a new household, residents pay $1.08 to support that household each year.  Voting to prevent development via open space preservation actually keeps taxes lower.

Chester County residents often choose to live here for the quality of life. Development negatively impacts quality of life by increasing traffic (2-3 vehicles per new household), noise and air pollution. The environmental degradation and loss of natural resources that accompany development also diminish property values as well as erode the rural character unique to Chester County.

Voting in favor of open space provides a township with financial resources to work with landowners to find the most economical way to preserve open space for the benefit of the community.  It also allows a township to be eligible to receive significant additional open space funding from both County and State sources. Funds raised are used to secure easements that are tied to the land in perpetuity, not to the current landowners. By putting scenic properties under permanent easement, residents continue to enjoy the scenic beauty and ecological advantages such as clean water and biodiversity the land provides.

It is important to note that earned income taxes that support the preservation of open space do not apply to residents on fixed incomes including social security; nor does it apply to inheritance, insurance proceeds, unemployment, interest earnings, capital gains, insurance proceeds, gifts, bequests, third party sick pay or active military duty pay.

You can find more information about the open space referendum at westbradford.org or by contacting Justin Yaich, Township Manager at jyaich@westbradford.org.

Meg Kramer

Chairperson West Bradford Township Land Preservation and Sustainability Committee

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