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Chester County Press

New Garden preserves 7.8-acre Landenberg property

12/23/2020 12:55PM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

In a municipality that is becoming more and more known for its devotion to preserving open spaces, New Garden Township has just protected another 7.8 acres of pristine land, in perpetuity.

At their Dec. 21 online meeting, the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors approved an easement and agreement of sale for the purchase of the Penn Green Easement, a wooded stretch along the White Clay Creek that has been owned for several years by the Hiles family on Penn Green Road.

The acquisition was conducted through a partnership between Natural Lands and the township’s Open Space Review Board (OSRB). The assessed value of the land is $234,000 – or $30,000 per acre – and the total cost of the purchase was $520,000. The township has already secured $284,000 in grant funding for the purchase, and the remaining balance of the purchase is likely to be paid for through an additional $235,600 in grants in 2021.

“The botanical survey of the township refers to this area as the ‘Canyon Country’ of the White Clay Creek,” said Kate Raman, a conservation project manager with Natural Lands and a consultant to the OSRB. “The creek lies at the bottom of a forested ravine and the steep slopes on either side of the creek anchor the site, so there is a real feeling of closure and privacy.”

Raman said the purchase and preservation of the property enhances the township’s trail connections, as highlighted in its 2019 Trail Prioritization Plan. The property will serve as another notch in the township’s commitment to preserving natural land -- and developing a corridor of nature trails -- through Landenberg and Avondale. Dating back to the township’s 2009 Greenways Plan, 20 sites were identified as potential trail areas and since that time, the OSRB has worked with Natural Lands, the Friends of the Trails and a stakeholder committee to facilitate these efforts.  

With the acquisition of the Hiles property, the OSRB has now preserved more than 300 acres in the township. To date, 18 percent of New Garden Township has been protected from development.

Property owner Cindy Hiles told the board that she first discussed the idea to place a conservation easement on her property with the township in April of 2019.

“My family and I have been extremely fortunate to call Landenberg our home, and we love everything about this property,” she told the board. “For the past 30 years, the banks of the White Clay Creek have been our home and we have enjoyed being neighbors to nature, the wildlife and the trees and the peaceful pace of life in the rural village of Landenberg. When it came time to make the extremely difficult decision to downsize and leave, we struggled with the idea that a potential buyer may not share the same interest for presentation.

“Conserving open space in Landenberg is critical for maintaining what is so special about our community, and knowing that our family and others will be able to hike and fish, or simply sit and contemplate, made this difficult to leave a bit easier.

“Simply put, it just feels right to save this space and make it accessible for everyone to appreciate and enjoy,” Hiles added. “Preserving habitat on the wild and scenic White Clay Creek in perpetuity is a legacy that my family is proud to be a part of.”

No tax increases for 2021

In other township business, the supervisors officially adopted the township’s 2021 budget, which will include no increase in taxes for the coming year. The 2021 budget calls for expenditures of $15.7 million, $6.3 million of which will be stored in the general fund. It represents a slight uptick from the budget expenditures of 2020, which totaled $13.19 million, but is less than the $18.6 million that was spent in 2019, when $5 million was placed in the township’s capital fund to help pay for the construction of the new facility for the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department.

On the township’s income side, the 2021 budget lists $13.04 million in expected revenue, and an additional $2.7 million in budgeted funds.

Township’s sale of sewer system completed

Board Chairman Pat Little said that the township is finalizing the sale of its wastewater system to Essential Utilities, Inc. (previously Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater, Inc.), in the amount of $29,756,567.05. The company’s payment was anticipated to be received by the township on Dec. 22.

When the transference of money is seen in the township’s account, it will signify the end of a four-year journey of negotiations that began in August of 2016, when the New Garden Township Sewer Authority and Aqua entered into an agreement to transfer the ownership of the township’s sewage system to Aqua. The application received approval from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on June 29, 2017.

He said that the board will make a presentation to township residents in January about how the township intends to use the money from the sale to pay for township services, as well as provide strategies for how it plans to invest the funds.

“The logic will be to take the money and place it into the capital fund and in operating expenses, which should last us for a couple of years, and then invest the rest of it in 10 to 20-year investments,” he said. “We have been in the process of figuring out how we are going to set up the expenditures of some of the money. My recommendation is that we will not present the plan until the money is in the bank and we can do it correctly.”

The board also approved the final payment for the completion of Phase II of the New Garden Township Park expansion, in the amount of $126,400. The project was completed at $74,000 under its original budget.

The supervisors also issued a township proclamation to Toughkenamon resident Cecelia Julia Wright Rochester, on the occasion of her 101st birthday. A long-time member of the Mt. Taber AME Church in Avondale, Rochester is the mother of 17 children, 34 grandchildren, 34 great grandchildren and 17 great great grandchildren.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].