In December of 2013, The Radnor Township Board of Commissioners agreed to buy 71 acres of original Ardrossan land. It was well-documented in the media, right?
To quote Radnor Patch back then:
To cover the $11.6 million cost, Radnor plans to use a $10 million bond issue (previously approved by Radnor voters) as well as supplementary grant funding requested from DCNR, Delaware County and private fundraising, according to the township document.
“The bond payments would be largely funded by revenue from our Open Space Fund, which comes from the real estate transfer tax, rather than from property taxes. However, for an 11 year period (2015 to 2026) the projected payments will exceed the amount available in that fund and we would need a millage increase to make up the difference,” reads a township document on the acquisition.
The document continues, “The millage increase would be structured to sunset in 2026. The millage increase required would be .15 mills. The median home assessment in Radnor is $264,710. That landowner would pay $39.71 a year with such an increase. Further, 67% of the properties in Radnor are assessed under $344,682 and those taxpayers would pay an average of $29.34, with the highest in that range paying $51.70.”
“Board President Elaine Schaefer said the community has had a ‘long-standing desire’ to preserve Ardrossan as open space. She pointed to a 2006 referendum that allowed the board to sell up to $20 million in bonds to pay for open space that was approved by 80 percent of the residents,” reports Main Line Media News.
“Also, in the four recent hearings held to discuss the purchase where “scores of people spoke,” residents supported the plan 3 to 1, she said. While Schaefer said that she understands the financial concerns of ‘the minority,’ Schaefer, who was just reelected, said that Radnor was a democracy,” the newspaper reports. According to the document, the intended use for the land would be for a trail system (both walking/running on the perimeter and macadam/biking on the road) “and continued agricultural use through a farming licensing agreement, and reforestation, habitat and wetland restoration.”~ Radnor Patch 12/19/2013
OK, let this sink in again for a minute “According to the document, the intended use for the land would be for a trail system (both walking/running on the perimeter and macadam/biking on the road) “and continued agricultural use through a farming licensing agreement, and reforestation, habitat and wetland restoration.”
I have to ask, are their proper trails back there yet and has all of that mentioned years ago happened? Or just cows grazing up against McMansions, so McMansions get tax breaks and the farmer grows his cow’s food and no one seems to wish to actually release a comprehensive report since he signed off on his original lease and Radnor developed the ordinance to produce the lease or whatever?
Not to be picky, but from said document of 2015:
And here, the entire document signed by Bill Spingler in 2015:
So in theory, the chemicals would have to be human, domestic animal and wildlife friendly, right? Also in theory, chemicals used could not pose an actual or potential threat to natural water sources, right?
So if the list of chemicals used by said farmer as part of the lease agreement is supposed to be provided, are they regularly and PUBLICLY available (as in always posted on township website as exhibits in the form in which they arrived with only personal email addresses and phone numbers redacted?) ??? At this point why can’t the issue be discussed at Radnor meetings whenever and why can’t the public seem to ever quite know the truth? I still don’t understand what the big deal in Radnor Township’s mind is since that agreement lays out disclosing of chemicals, etc?
So Radnor what about the chemicals? Has that creek been tested regularly and by whom and where are the test results? Why are no outside environmental groups involved or are they involved and if so who? Does Trout Unlimited know for example? What does Delaware County say or a state thing like the PA DEP?
OK now let’s think about the folks who think the lease agreement is ridiculous and come on where else can someone get a deal of renting gobs of land at a $1 and they keep all the lovely moola they make off of the land as well? That my friends, is a farmer’s dream. I can’t blame a farmer for wanting a great deal because farming is brutally hard work and ungodly expensive. However, there is an original ordinance and lease and lease agreement correct? So what happens if the farmer isn’t keeping with the agreement? Has the lease been changed in any way since it’s original issuance?
So yes, to those who wanted the lease overturned in 2021, did you ever think another way to invalidate a lease is if the terms of the lease weren’t being adhered to? And wouldn’t super nasty chemicals be a lease issue?
Bringing it full circle to today, is that why Radnor doesn’t seem to want to release all of the information the public is entitled to see because it is public land?
Seems pretty simple and straightforward, doesn’t it? But sadly, hasn’t Radnor Township had transparency issues in the past? Sunshine doesn’t just help the crops grow, yo’.
Here are links to articles relevant to the farmer and the original lease. I looked for stuff on the trails that were part of this idea and purchase and subsequent leases or changes in lease verbiage, but…. ???? Does this stuff exist?
Radnor official says cattle are part of a tax dodge at the former Ardrossan estate
Richard Booker’s motion would end Fern Valley Farm’s $1-a-year lease for land that the township paid almost $12 million for in 2013.
by Jacob Adelman
Published Nov 12, 2021
An elected official in Radnor is pushing for the township to cancel its lease with a cattle rancher on publicly owned land that had once been part of the sprawling Ardrossan estate, saying the deal helps wealthy landowners on other sections of the former estate take unfair advantage of tax breaks for agriculture.
Richard Booker’s motion, which he plans to introduce at a Board of Commissioners meeting on Nov. 22, would end the agreement that lets rancher Richard Billheim’s Fern Valley Farm use 71 acres of township-owned property for its beef cow operation in exchange for $1 a year.
Booker said in a memo with his motion that he decided to take action on the lease after reading an article published earlier this year by The Inquirer about the tax breaks at the former estate enabled by statewide agricultural-conservation programs under Act 319 — better known as “Clean and Green” — and Act 515.
The programs tax land for what it is worth as a working farm and not what its value would be if sold on the open market for housing, strip malls, or offices. Under Act 319, by far the most commonly used of the programs at Ardrossan and elsewhere, the land must produce $2,000 a year in farm goods.
At least two dozen parcels on more than 260 acres are successfully enrolled in the programs, accounting for more than 40% of the former Ardrossan estate’s acreage sold over the last quarter-century, according to an Inquirer analysis of Delaware County records.
Properties covered by the tax breaks include homes of a leader at a major real estate firm, members of the family that cofounded the Apple Vacations tour business, and the top-ranking member of the County Council for surrounding Delaware County.
The only known agricultural products coming from the enrolled land are the corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay grown there to feed Fern Valley’s cows. While cows do graze on a portion of that land, most of their grass-munching is done on the township-owned property. To Booker, that means Radnor is helping private property owners get their tax breaks because those cows wouldn’t be there absent the generous lease.
Radnor officials defeat measure to cancel ranch lease seen as aiding Ardrossan tax reductions
The decision leaves in place an agreement that Fern Valley Farm has said was vital to its 10-person operation.
by Jacob Adelman
Published Nov 23, 2021
Officials in Radnor have defeated a measure to cancel a lease on township land for a cattle operation that also helps residents on parts of the former Ardrossan estate save hundreds of thousands each year on their taxes.
In a 4-2 vote with one abstention, the township’s Board of Commissioners on Monday rejected member Richard Booker’s motion to terminate Fern Valley Farm’s $1-a-year lease to use 71 acres of publicly owned property for its 60-head Black Angus beef business.
Booker said at the sometimes combative hearing on Monday evening that this was not a good use of the land that Radnor paid $11.7 million to purchase in 2013 and now costs the township $600,000 a year in debt service payments.
“I don’t want anyone to lose their job or for the farm to go away,” said Booker, who is one of two Republicans on the seven-member panel. “What I do want is to get the township out of … the business of farmland-assessment reductions it has been in for the last seven years…….”However, commissioner Lisa Borowski, a Democrat whose ward includes part of the former Ardrossan estate, said residents are benefiting from the deal…..
Borowski also said that the farmland-preservation programs give Ardrossan landowners an incentive not to subdivide and develop their large properties, which they could opt to do. This does not appear to be accurate, since all of the privately held properties enrolled in such programs are also covered by deals known as conservation easements that prohibit them from being further developed in perpetuity, according to an analysis of property records by The Inquirer.
When the former estate was first broken up, buyers of those properties qualified for federal tax breaks for land conservation thanks to those easements, as The Inquirer has reported.
Asked in an interview Tuesday about which properties she was referring to in her public remarks, Borowski referred the question to Township Solicitor John Rice. Rice said he had not performed an analysis that would identify such properties.
Oh and don’t forget, Lisa Borowski is running for State Rep in the 168th against Chris Quinn, right? So maybe it would benefit State Rep Chris Quinn to inquire as to the chemicals used on the fields, etc,. right?
Look, I love open space and I will admit it, I love cows and those cows are awesome and special. BUT chemicals are a big deal and look at all of the things in the news about glyphosate and paraquat-based herbicides? And what about the pesticides they warn about that can harm bees and other beneficial insects? I totally get that not all farmers can go completely organic BUT where this land is being farmed should be part of a more organic plan if not a completely organic conversation, correct?
So time to show ALL of the cards on this, Radnor. At a minimum if you like and respect your farmer, don’t you want him to be able to farm in peace? And farm safely to protect humans, domestic animals, natural water sources, nature in general, etc, etc?
Happy Saturday, and moo.