Taxing times in Westtown

It’s coming down to nitty-gritty time for possible tax hikes in Westtown Township. Residents will be asked on next month’s ballot whether they want increases in property and earned income taxes for open space preservation. The push is spearheaded by the township’s desire to preserve Crebilly Farm.

The township held the second of two tax informational meetings on Oct. 24. Monday’s meeting was a little different than a similar meeting held last month. It was a chance for residents to make comments and questions.

The session began with township Manager John Altshul giving a brief presentation on a question that will be on the ballot on Nov. 8.

The question on the ballot will be: “Do you favor the imposition of an increase in the earned income tax at a rate not to exceed eight one hundredths (8/100th) of one percent (0.08%) and an increase in the real property tax at a rate not to exceed 0.42 mils ($0.42 per $1,000 assessed valuation) by the Township of Westtown to be used to purchase interest in real property for purposes of securing open space benefits and for transactional fees incidental to acquisitions of open space property; retire indebtedness incurred in acquiring open space; and the expenditure of funds for any purpose relating to the acquisition, planning for acquisition, preservation, improvement and maintenance of open space or for an open space benefits?”

Altshul went on to say that Westtown’s current earned income tax is 1 percent but would go to 1.08 percent if the referendum passes. The current township property tax of 3.5 mils would go to 3.92 mils. The extra tax revenue would amount to an additional $681,000 per year for the township. Of that, about $545,000 would be needed to secure $7.5 million in open space bonds (i.e. new debt) to fund the acquisition, while the remainder (about $136,000) would be used to maintain the property, he said in his presentation.

Crebilly Farm is 320-plus acres situated between Route 926 to the south, Route 202 to the east, W. Pleasant Grove Road to the north, and S. New Street to the west. Twice, supervisors denied conditional use approval to Toll Bros. who wanted to build 317 new homes on the site.

Westtown was able to enter into an agreement of sale with the Robinson family, the owners of the farm. The township wants to buy the 206 easternmost acres for $100,000 per acre. The remaining acreage along the western side has four parcels that would remain residential but eased so that those parcels could not be subdivided. Natural Lands would oversee the open space portion. It has already written grant applications and the township has received $2 million in grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

A couple of the residents said the township taxes were already too high, especially compared to neighboring townships, and asked what would happen if the referendum passed but the township was still unable to obtain the property. Other residents in favor of the acquisition and tax had the same concern.

The response was that the money would be used for other open space needs, either buying other properties or for maintaining open space already under the township’s control.

For the Township to become the legal owner of the property, the Township will need to secure approximately 75 percent of the purchase price from various sources, such as county, state, and federal grant programs by March 31, 2023. The remaining 25 percent would be paid for with local Westtown tax dollars.

However, if the referendum does not pass, the deal with the Robinsons would not go through and the family, supervisors have said previously, has other developers interested in the property.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.



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