Letter to the Editor:
I just wrote a very big check for KCSD school taxes, up yet again from last year. It is indeed a privilege to live in bucolic Kennett Township, and good schools are important, but the resulting taxes are becoming prohibitively expensive for many of us.
A major part of this problem is the current haphazard approach to development in our township. For every new house built, two or more new children enter our schools, at a taxpayer expense of about $17,000 per year each, roughly the yearly taxes from three or four average households. Simple math shows this is just not sustainable.
The 2004 Comprehensive Plan for Kennett Township suggests two solutions: controlling residential development and encouraging well-planned commercial development. Residential over-development can be tamed through the creative use of Open Space and other land planning tools. This results in substantial tax savings, and also a better quality of life for all residents. Appropriate commercial development increases the tax base without increasing the population, and also generates jobs and business opportunities for township residents. There are many examples of townships throughout our Commonwealth that have successfully implemented similar solutions.
Unfortunately, since this Comprehensive Plan was approved, our Board of Supervisors has largely failed to implement it. Despite the availability of $2.7 million in Open Space funds and some of the lowest land prices in two decades – not to mention a massive $8 million General Fund surplus – our board has seen fit to acquire only a few small, fragmented parcels for Open Space, while regularly snubbing prime acquisition candidates that then become more housing sprawl. Meanwhile, the board has also failed to plan for or promote, any significant commercial and industrial development.
Perhaps our board has felt that, by doing nothing, nothing will change. Quite the opposite: by doing nothing, they are guaranteeing the township will become yet another high-tax bedroom suburb. Fortunately, the voters have a chance to change the township’s direction this November. Michael Elling, a major obstacle to progress, is finally stepping aside, and there are now two new candidates for supervisor. I’ve reviewed each candidate’s website, and urge other voters to do the same.
Jim Przywitowski has served more than twenty years on township committees. Unfortunately these are the very committees that have for years simply rubber-stamped the chronic inaction of our supervisors on development issues. Moreover, Jim’s campaign team includes long-time allies of Elling and his stated platform on development is vague. This strongly suggests that little would change if he was elected.
Richard Leff, a research scientist and business executive, has no previous township government experience, but given the alternative, that may well be a plus. He has strongly criticized the township’s neglectful record on development, and has clearly laid out the case for fostering significant Open Space acquisition and commercial/industrial development. If elected, he would join Scudder Stevens, who largely shares his views, to constitute a new board majority that could finally initiate real change.
On the key issue of development, at least, it seems the voters this year will have a clear choice as to just what kind of township they prefer to live in.