Four candidates vie for two seats on the East Nottingham Township Board of Supervisors
By Steven Hoffman
Four candidates—Gary Coates, Sam Goodley, Jr., Joe Raffa, and Michael Watson—are vying for two seats on East Nottingham Township's board of supervisors in the Nov. 7 election.
Coates is a lifelong resident of East Nottingham. He is a military veteran who has worked as a mechanic and is a small business owner in the area. He and his family have also owned and operated farms for two generations. Both Coates and Goodley were appointed to fill vacancies on the board and have terms that expire at the end of the year. Raffa previously served on the board of supervisors. This is the first time that Watson has run for a seat on the board.
In recent years, one of the most important issues in the township is open space. According to Watson and Goodley, they both share similar views about open space and sensible zoning regulations.
“We both believe in sensible land-use planning,” said Goodley. “We have the same views when it comes to maintaining the rural character of East Nottingham Township.”
Watson is a law enforcement officer. He and his wife have lived in the township for nine years. His introduction to East Nottingham Township government came through his involvement with the Century Oak Homeowners Association.
Goodley has been an attorney for 40 years. He previously served as a member of the township's board of supervisors, and is currently in his second year of filling a vacancy. He has served about eight years as a township supervisor in total, providing him with a wealth of knowledge about East Nottingham Township.
At one time, Goodley said, the township had zoning regulations that didn't do enough to preserve the agricultural and rural character of the township. The result was too much residential growth, which boosted the number of students in Oxford schools and created the need for costly infrastructure improvements. That led to increased property taxes on all residents in the area.
Goodley explained that East Nottingham was able to get its zoning turned around, and the rural character of the township is now being preserved.
“The whole atmosphere has changed,” he said, explaining that he has some Amish neighbors who were at one time considering leaving the area because of all the development pressures, but were then able to decide to stay in East Nottingham.
The township initiated an earned-income tax of one-half of one percent for open space to help protect agricultural lands. The revenues raised with this tax are to be used to preserve desirable farmland in perpetuity.
A few years ago, a majority of the supervisors were against utilizing revenues from the open-space tax to preserve farmland and they reduced the open space tax to zero for a time. But when a referendum was placed on a ballot, East Nottingham voters turned out and overwhelmingly supported the open space program. The township is currently collecting a one-quarter of one percent tax for open space.
Watson said that agricultural preservation can be a useful way to limit taxes because protecting farmlands is an effective way to reduce the residential development pressures.
Additionally, Goodley said, “the less developments you have, the less you need to spend on infrastructure.”
Goodley and Watson also agree that getting the Oxford Area Sewer Authority on solid financial footing is a priority for the sewer authority's member municipalities—East Nottingham being one.
East Nottingham Township has also been working on a plan to come into compliance with MS4 regulations—a federal mandate that requires municipalities to reduce the amount of sediment that is being discharged into waterways.
Watson is on the National Law Enforcement Ethics Committee, so not surprisingly ethics in local government is an issue that would be very important to him.
“People want to know that you're open and honest,” Watson said, explaining that he wants his neighbors in East Nottingham to know that he is running for the right reasons—to ensure that the local government is functioning in an ethical and professional manner.
Watson said that he would like the township to be transparent and provide as much information as possible to residents.
“We could do a better job of being transparency and enhance the simple things like our Facebook page or website,” he said.
Watson said that one thing he hears from residents, especially from younger families, is a request for there to be more activities in the area.
“A lot of young people expressed interest in that,” Watson said, explaining that he serves on the Oxford Area Recreation Authority Board that has been working to add good activities for families and children.
Goodley said that he has been endorsed by the Oxford Good Government Committee. He would welcome working alongside Watson on an East Nottingham board starting in 2018, saying that Watson is an energetic person who would be an asset to the board of supervisors. Goodley is very optimistic that the township's board of supervisors could serve residents well if he and Watson are elected on Nov. 7. He said that they share a vision to preserve the rural character of the township and to be fiscally responsible.
Explained Watson, “Nobody wants to see tax increases.”