New Garden conservation agreement, about to be rescinded, gets reprieve
06/21/2016 02:44PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
There it was, listed about half-way down the first page of the agenda for the June 20 New Garden Township Supervisors meeting: “Green Valley Farm Conservation Easement – Consider motion to rescind the conservation agreement for 178+ acres known as the Green Valley Farm.”
Its inclusion on the board's agenda is nothing new. On Feb, 23, 2015, the board voted 3-2 to enter into negotiations to purchase the acreage for $2.3 million, for the purpose of placing a conservation easement on it. At the board's Jan. 19, 2016 meeting, supervisor Pat Little – the most vocal opponent of the Green Valley Farm easement – requested that the board enter into a motion to reconsider the easement deal. The negotiations were taking far too long, he said.
He withdrew the motion after Tom Johnson and George Elser, attorneys representing the Reynolds family, spent 45 minutes explaining the reasons for the delay, and telling the supervisors that a final agreement would be reached by the end of February.
On May 16, Little requested that the board again enter into a motion to reconsider the deal at its June 20 meeting. Again, he echoed his previous sentiment, questioning why the township was committing itself to a deal that had been going on for 15 months without a hint of resolution.
There is little doubt that a major complication that has led to these delays has been exacerbated by those on the other side of these negotiations. Warren Reynolds, a former township supervisor whose family has owned and managed this property since 1904, is currently serving a prison sentence for the possession of more than 500 images of child pornography. Meanwhile, his brother John is incapacitated and therefore incapable of managing his own affairs.
As a result – and just two hours before a vote on the issue to rescind the offer was scheduled to come to a vote – Township solicitor Vince Pompo told the supervisors that the attorney for John Reynolds filed a petition late on Monday afternoon with the Orphan's Court in the City of Philadelphia, for approval of the proposed conservation easement on the property and the agreement of sale. The Orphans' Court is a division of the Philadelphia Judicial System, which serves to protect the personal and property rights of all persons and entities who are otherwise incapable of managing their own affairs.
Pompo said the filing of that petition was a condition set forth in the agreement of sale. He said that he was not certain about the time frame for the petition's approval, but that uncontested petitions can be processed relatively quickly in Orphan's Court, and that the Court has experience in approving transactions involving conservation agreements.
Little said that because the agreement is now in Orphan's Court, he would suspend his motion to rescind the agreement.
Pompo said that he informed the attorneys for the Reynolds family that the township was planning to rescind the agreement, prior to the June 20 meeting.
“I'm a lawyer, and I do transactions all the time,” Pompo said. “Some transactions go smoothly and very quickly, and other transactions tend to be more complicated, take a longer time, involve more parties and lawyers. Decisions have to be made, and things need to be run by many people. That is how I would categorize this transaction.”
Last week, Warren Reynolds submitted a letter to the editor that appears on the Chester County Press' website (www.chestercounty.com), in which he criticized Little for wanting to rescind the agreement.
“Apparently there is a rather loud voice on the Board of Supervisors who is concerned that
it’s taking some time to complete this agreement and would rather just rescind it,” Reynolds wrote. “A good businessman understands the value of deferred payment. The township is saving money
every day as its funds sit and collect interest and inflation decreases the value of the ultimate
payment. Good supervisors should make the effort to acquaint themselves with the facts.
“Township supervisors should act based on facts and the will of the people, not based upon politics and personal agendas,” he further wrote. “Preserving Green Valley is not about one person or family. It is about the quality of life of New Gardeners now and for future generations.”
Little then responded to Reynolds' criticism.
“The arrogance that Warren showed in the letter to the editor just amazes me – that he's telling the supervisors how to do their job, while he's in jail,” he said. “That irritated me. I still think it is a bad deal. We're going to be paying over $14,000 an acre for (the Green Valley Farms), and after we get the reimbursement from St. Anthony's (in the Hills), we're paying about $4,000 an acre. You can quibble about the difference in the land, but that's a lot of money.”
“I think it's frustrating that it's gone on for this long,” said supervisor Randy Geouque who, along with Little, voted against the township entering the agreement on Feb. 23, 2015 and who, during discussion after the vote, accused the deal of being laden with what he called “cronyism.”
“We hurried to get the deal done, and here we are, 16 months later, and we still don't have a deal in place," he said. "In my opinion, that money could be allocated to other parcels.”
In other township business, the board awarded the bid for the reconstruction of the Thompson Road Bridge to Work Force Construction, Inc., for $43,710. The project is expected to be completed in August.
Pompo gave an update on the proposed sale of the township's sewer system, and apologized for the cancellation of public meetings related to the sale.
"It has not been as quick as we had hoped," he said. "We had hoped to been at the active participation stage by now. We have been working very closely to finalize an agreement of sale, and then bring it to the board and to the public. We have been working very diligently on this, but we have not been able to do it in the original time frame.
"We are very hopeful that we will be in a position by the end of this week to report back to the board on a firm schedule for bringing the matter back to the public. Hopefully that will occur during our meeting cycles in July."
Township manager Tony Scheivert told the audience that public meeting dates for discussion on the proposed sewer sale will be announced prior to the board's next meeting on July 18.
Township Police Chief Gerald Simpson informed the board that police officer Jose G. Reyes submitted his letter of resignation from the department, effective June 20. The board approved the resignation, and then approved the promotion of part-time officer Jeremy O'Neill to a full-time officer status, effective June 20.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.