New Garden easement deal may face end-of-year deadline
11/21/2017 12:37PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
From the time the deal was first made on Feb. 23, 2015 to enter New Garden Township into negotiations to purchase the 178-acre Green Valley Farm in the township for $2.3 million and place a conservation easement on it, supervisor Pat Little has been its staunchest opponent.
For nearly three years, the negotiations between the township, members of the Reynolds family who own the property and their attorneys have been a one-step-up, two-steps back confluence of delays, and just moments after the board voted at its Nov. 20 meeting to approve payment for the initial $858,449 installment for the property, Little was heard from again.
Little introduced a motion to approve advertising for a discussion at the board's Dec. 18 meeting – and subsequently a vote – declaring that if the Green Valley Farm conservation easement is not fully reached by the end of 2017, the township would rescind the entire deal. The motion was approved by all five supervisors.
“We're going into our third year on this, and I don't know whose side I'm working on,” Little told the board.
Little first suggested a motion to back out of the deal at the board's meetings on Dec. 21, 2015, Jan. 19, 2016 and May 16, 2016, but at each stretch, he and the board were given reasons for the delay. At one meeting, Tom Johnson, one of the attorneys representing the Reynolds family, called the negotiation for the easement “a complicated process,” due mainly to the fact that the property is owned by Reynolds, a guardianship for his brother, and by two trusts, with different beneficiaries.
Reaching a final deal on the property has been further complicated by Warren Reynolds currently serving a state prison sentence for the possession of more than 500 images of child pornography. In addition, his brother is incapacitated and not able to actively be a part of discussions related to the sale of the property, which has prompted the negotiations to be entered into the Philadelphia Orphans Court Division, one of the three divisions of the Court of Common Pleas that serves to protect the personal and property rights of all persons and entities who are otherwise incapable of managing their own affairs.
On June 1 of this year, a pinhole crack in the negotiations appeared to open up when Township Solicitor Vince Pompo informed the board that the Philadelphia Orphans Court issued a decree approving the application to the agreement of sale of the property. He said that assuming that there are no further appeals, a due diligence period would begin on July 3, conclude on Aug. 17, with a final agreement expected by the end of September.
The property, eight contiguous parcels, is located north of Route 41 and is bordered by Penn Green Road on its western edge, Old Baltimore Pike on its northern border, and the area behind the commercial and residential development along Newark Road, on its eastern edge. It offers more than 30 acres of mature woodland, large ponds, streams, existing paths and scenic vistas which can be seen from Penn Green Road. It contains the former site of a dairy farm, and an historic home built in 1740, which has been in the Reynolds family since 1904.
The acquisition of the property is scheduled to be paid for out of the township's Open Space Fund, and the initial payment will comprise 37 percent of the total cost for the easement, which will be followed by the remaining 63 percent of the total cost, which will be paid in equal installments over the next three years.
In other township business, the board approved a 60-day extension in the negotiations with Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater, Inc. (Aqua), to finalize the sale of the township's sewer system to Aqua for the price of $29.5 million.
The township had originally agreed to a 155-day extension in its negotiations with Aqua, but that extension is set to expire soon. Township Manager Tony Scheivert said that the purpose for granting the additional extension is because the asset purchase agreement for the sale has been appealed by the Office of the Consumer Advocate, and that easement issues between the township and Aqua still need to be finalized.
The board agreed to the proposed 2018 meeting schedule, beginning on Jan. 2 when a re-organizational meeting will take place. Board meetings will take place on the third Monday of every month, beginning at 7:30 p.m. All budget meetings will be advertised and begin at 7 p.m.
Jim DeLuzio, the New Garden Township representative for the Kennett Library, thanked the board for its support of the Library Referendum that appeared on the township's Nov. 7 ballot. By a vote of 1,014-651, township voters approved the referendum, which will create an annual dedicated tax of about $20 per household and generate a projected $80,000 in annual revenue to the library.
“The referendum carried in all voting [locations] in the township, and almost 61 percent of voters that day supported the referendum,” DeLuzio said. “The Board of Trustees have a vision to make the library an even more vital part of our community. We have the staff and programs that will help change lives for the better.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.