New Garden easement deal expected to be reached on Dec. 28
12/22/2017 02:03PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
What began as a simple 3-2 vote nearly three years ago is about to finally reach its controversial conclusion.
As part of its settlement with Green Valley Farms in order to purchase the 178-acre property for a total of $2.3 million and place a conservation easement on it, New Garden Township is scheduled to make an initial payment totaling $1.306 million on Dec. 28.
As disclosed at the board's Dec. 18 meeting, the township will pay former supervisor Warren Reynolds a sum of $448,000, and a sum of $858,449 to a trust for the Reynolds estate. 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.
Moments later the scheduled agreement was announced, Board Chairman Pat Little offered a motion that stated that if the deal is not finalized by the end of the year, the township would rescind the offer, doubling up on a motion he put forth at the board's Nov. 20 meeting.
The board voted 5-0 in favor of the motion.
“For the record, in my opinion, this agreement is a bad business deal for the township, and has been since it started,” Little said before the vote was reached.
The deal was brokered in negotiations between the township, attorneys for the Reynolds family, and Natural Lands, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping preserve open space in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.
“Natural Lands is pleased to work alongside New Garden Township to accomplish the community's open space goals, and we remain committed to doing everything we can to ensure the successful preservation of Green Valley Farm," said Erin McCormick, an attorney for Natural Lands.
When the township voted in favor entering into negotiations to purchase the property on Feb. 23, 2015 by a slim margin, very few involved with the agreement believed that it would take nearly three years to complete, and during that time, some on the board became agitated over the delay, none more than Little, who on a few occasions expressed the need for the township to back out of the deal, but each time, he and the other supervisors 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.
Wrapping up the deal was further complicated by the fact that Warren Reynolds is currently serving a state prison sentence for the possession of more than 500 images of child pornography, while his brother is incapacitated and not able to actively be a part of discussions related to the sale of the property, forcing 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.
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.
Under the terms of agreement, there will be no public access to the property.
In other township business, the township authorized and approved a petition filed by the Hartefeld National Golf Club with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (LCB), requesting exemption from the LCB's regulations for amplified music being heard off the club's grounds.
With its authorization, the township will agree to enforce its own nuisance ordinance with respect to noise at Hartefeld.
Introduced by Ellen M. Freeman, attorney for Hartefeld, the issue of excessive noise – in the form of outdoor music from the club's outdoor patio – that was reported in October 2016 by a resident who lives in the vicinity of the club.
As a result of being reported for the noise, Hartefeld has had to suspend outdoor music on its back patio.
“From my understanding, the resident, who lived about two miles from the property line, called the LCB and once they're called, [the LCB] need to investigate,” Freeman said. “While they were standing on the property lines, they did hear noise. It doesn't matter if it's a whisper or a loud noise.”
Freeman said that historically, the LCB receives a complaint from a resident, or anyone who drives past a licensed premises and wants to complain about the noise, a liquor control enforcement agent is required to investigate the licensed premises. On their first visit, Freeman said, if the agent is standing on the property line and is able to hear a noise coming off of the licensed premises, the agent can issue a citation, usually between $250 and $300. A second fine is typically in the amount of $800, and on a third infraction, the LCB has the right to suspend a licensed establishment from permitting dancing and music.
Ken Nicholas, general manager at Hartefeld, said that the club would be willing to work with homeowners associations who represent neighborhoods in the vicinity of Hartefeld to discuss hours of operation for live outdoor music, and amplification issues.
The board's authorization and approval of Hartefeld's petition to the LCB is step one in the club's plans. Freeman said that Hartefeld will now file a similar petition to the LCB.
The board also gave conditional preliminary plan approval for the planned Modern Mushroom Business Park on Newark Road, specific to the road improvements outlined for the park, that were outlined to the board by representatives for Gilmore & Associates, McMahon Associates and the township engineer.
Referring to an overhead schematic of the designed improvements along Newark Road on both the north and south entrances to the planned park, Ken Hoffman, a landscape architect for Gilmore & Associates, said that Gilmore has received several recommendations about the road improvements. On the northern side of the entrance, the design calls for a dedicated right turn lane, as well as a widened road, a four-foot shoulder and two 12-foot lanes, a concrete barrier and additional grading – in order to meet the needs requested at previous presentations before the board.
Hoffman said that the tweaks to the roadway would provide safer opportunities for maneuverability, and increased opportunities for trucks to enter and leave the planned business park.
“At a conceptual level, we believe it is a positive plan, and seems to do what we need it to do in order to accommodate traffic,” Hoffman said. “At this point, we're comfortable with the plan, and want to follow the next step, which is to proceed to a full engineering plans for the road improvements. This will then give the township and PennDOT the opportunity to do a detailed review [of the project].”
Among those proposing comments and recommendations were Chris William of McMahon Associates and Nate Cline, the township's engineer. The majority of the recommendations, Hoffman said, have been resolved, while the remainder will be resolved as the project's development continues.
The supervisors also granted a waiver request by Gilmore & Associates that permits the firm to avoid having to submit a second environmental impact study.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.