Kennett Township seeks elimination of land trust ordinances
By Richard L. Gaw
At their Jan. 15 meeting, the Kennett Township supervisors opened up discussion of a measure that could eliminate two ordinances related to land trusts in the township.
Claiming that both ordinances are “irrelevant,” the supervisors said they are considering the possibility of rescinding Ordinances 102 and 190. Ordinance 102, enacted in 1995 and known as the Kennett Township Land Trust Enabling Ordinance, allows the supervisors to enter into contracts with the Kennett Township Land Trust, provide administrative assistance, and to fund the land trust financially, if they choose to. The Trust is now legally called The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County, a nationally-accredited organization that operates independently from the township, and who currently holds exisiting conservation easements and negotiates new conservation easements with township residents.
Ordinance 190, created in 2010, which would allow the township to create its own municipal lands trust and known as The Kennett Land Conservancy, has never been incorporated or acted upon.
Because it has never been incorporated or acted upon, David Sanders, legal counsel to the township, recommended that the supervisors eliminate Ordinance 190. “Perhaps (Ordinance) 102 is also superfluous and is ripe for repeal,” Sanders said, “in that it references a land trust that no longer exists as named. And, secondly, the board has the right to contract to provide services to any outside agency it wants to.”
Township resident Ted Moxon weighed in on the discussion to repeal the land trust ordinances, saying that there is interest on the part of township residents who have easements on their property. He suggested that because there is no huge need to immediately repeal the ordinances, the board should move slowly on the matter, and get the input of several residents. He also asked if the the township has budgeted $865,000 toward open space acquisition in 2014, why are they considering rescinding the current land trust ordinances?
“A lot of divergent focuses have occurred in the last few years,” Moxon told the board. “You owe it to the residents of the township to try to get a little better handle on what the open space goals of the township are, what groups you want to be affiliated with, and which people are handling the open space issues on behalf of the residents of the township.”
Gwen Lacy, executive director of The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County, told Moxon that the the group is the holder of existing conservation easements, and has been monitoring an facilitating those easements with land owners throughout the township. “Nothing has happened to those easements,” she said. “They're just held by an entity that legally changed its name."
In response to Moxon, Stevens further said that Ordinance 190 is irrelevant. “It hasn't done anything except create the potential of creating a new land trust that hasn't occurred yet,” Stevens said. “Secondly, the township does not own any conservancy easements, has never taken any conservancy easements, so the action of the township is an irrelevancy as well. The people who are dealing with conservancies all chose their conservancy entity with which to work. There are many other conservancies that hold easements in the township. All the township has done is facilitate the process between the owner and the conservancy.”
Supervisor Richard Leff said that because neither of the ordinances serve much purpose, he recommended that the board officially rescind ordinances 190 and 102. The motion passed 2-1, with supervisor Robert Hammaker voting against the motion. Stevens said that further discussion of the land trust ordinances would be conducted at the next supervisors work session, which is scheduled for Feb. 5.