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Chester County Press

Conservation easements draw a crowd to Franklin Supervisors meeting

11/21/2016 01:37PM ● By J. Chambless
By John Chambless
Staff Writer

The possible future conservation easements on two properties in Franklin Township were the subject of a debate at the Nov. 16 meeting of the Franklin Township Board of Supervisors.
One property is adjacent to the Peacedale Preserve and most of the board members agreed that it is not suitable for major development. But the other parcel, totaling 55.3 acres, is a working farm and would be attractive to a developer. 
Supervisor Donna Dea said she was against raising taxes to purchase open space, but at the low price of $5,000 per acre, the township should investigate helping with the purchase of the easement. The county is looking for the township to contribute 45 percent of the cost. 
Dea identified several areas of the preliminary budget where she thought the money could be found. Several residents were very supportive of this purchase and agreed that even though they may not have voted to raise the open space tax, they see the value in the purchase of conservation easements. 
Dea said she was in favor of doing everything possible to find the money in the budget. Board member Penny Schenk first explained that if there was extra money in the budget, she would like to use it to lower taxes, but she would be willing to assist in the purchase of easements or worthy open space properties once the township’s loan is paid off and the dedicated open space fund can pay for the purchase.
Schenk also pointed to the purchase of an AG easement on the Echo Hill McMaster property, which was not funded by any township money. Supervisor David Snyder said he is firmly not in favor of preserving open space. Chairman John Auerbach said he would vote against the Walker Road property, and that he would abstain from voting on the 55-acre farm since it is adjacent to his property. 
Residents at the meeting were very supportive of preserving open space and leaving a legacy for future generations. Several residents suggested using land conservation organizations such as Natural Lands Trust or Brandywine Conservancy to look for possible funding. 
In other business, Planning Commission chairman Dave Hoffman reported that the commission reviewed the Vineyard Church Sketch Plan. This plan involves two parcels -- one 8.135-acre parcel in Franklin, and one 8.139-acre parcel in London Britain Township, both of which are owned by Vineyard Christian Fellowship. This plan intends to create one new two-acre residential parcel in Franklin, and annex the remaining 6.135 acres of land to the existing parcel within London Britain Township. 
Resident Paul Overton discussed the need for a bridge on the trail between the Keen and Wyndemere trails. Resident Chris Perkins also discussed the bridge. He said that the Wyndemere Trail is great, but it is difficult to continue on to the Keen Trail without a bridge. 
The proposed bridge would cover a low spot where a stream splits. It would be approximately 18 inches off the ground, with a 12-foot span and an overall length of 25 feet. The Wyndemere Plan stated that the township would be responsible for any additional features installed or added to the trail. 
After some discussion, the board members agreed to look into buying the lumber for the bridge and donating it to the HOA, who would be responsible for building and maintaining the bridge. Auerbach expressed some concerns that the township might have some legal liability, but solicitor Mark Thompson said that since neither property was owned by the township, there would be no township responsibility.
Auerbach reported that he has spent the last month gathering information surrounding the issues he felt were most worrisome to the residents affected by the Gourmet’s Delight proposed development of the Benmark property. 
He met with the fire chief, who said there are sufficient safeguards in place to extinguish any fires that could be caused by hay bales on the property. He also said that Gourmet’s Delight would be responsible for any damage to neighboring homes. 
Residents asked about passing ordinances to restrict the placement and size of hay bales. Auerbach said that it was necessary to research how an ordinance might affect other farmers. 
The second area of concern was traffic on Auburn Road. After talking with a London Grove supervisor, Auerbach discovered that they also felt the curves in their township were dangerous, and would be willing to work on some improvements. Auerbach said that Franklin Township was willing to stripe Auburn Road to improve safety. 
The idea of weight-restricting the road was raised again by residents. Thompson said that even if an ordinance is passed to restrict traffic, delivery trucks can still get through.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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