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Chester County Press

Kennett Township board delays easement decision on three properties

05/26/2021 10:53AM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

After a thorough discussion at their May 19 online meeting, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors chose to delay a resolution that if passed would place separate conservation easements on three township-owned properties.

Those areas included in the proposed resolutions are the 44.6-acre Barkingfield property at 595 Bayard Road; the 63.8-acre Lord Howe property at 408 Burnt Mill Road; and the 103.7-acre Spar Hill property at 438 Burnt Mill Road.

The reason for the lengthy discussion – and the delay – had to do with wording.

Supervisor Scudder Stevens expressed concern with some of the terminology used in the Spar Hill conservation easement proposal, specifically, the absence of The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC) to act as a third party to provide protective oversight to the property.

“If the holder of the easement is the holder of the land, there is nobody there to technically enforce issues and stand on behalf of the land, because there is nobody in power to act except for the land owner, who is also the easement holder,” Stevens said. “I know that there has been some recommendation from the LCAC (the township’s Land Conservation Advisory Committee) that we incorporate an easement with TLC, so that the TLC will be that third party to be able to provide that protective oversight that is complicit in this process.”

Stevens then addressed the wording in one stipulation of the Spar Hill proposal, which states: Grantor desires to further a conservation objective of advancing Open Space Uses (as defined in 32 P.S. §5002) by protecting and conserving water resources, preserving a natural resource consisting of scenic land, preserving open space between communities, and conserving lands for recreation.

“I cannot vote for that unless it says ‘passive recreation,’” Stevens said. “The other two conservation easements made specific reference to ‘passive recreation.’ I want to keep the land as open and flowing and natural as possible. If you put a soccer field on it, you take a great big chunk of growing meadow and you turn it into a lawn.

“You could do the same with a baseball field. You could put a swimming pool in there and turn it into water. All of these things are ‘non-passive’ activities. Passive activity’ is when we can walk through it and enjoy it. The birds can enjoy it. The fox and the coyote that are there can enjoy it. It’s something that we can enjoy in its natural state. As soon as it is not passive, it’s no longer in its natural state.”

Board Chairman Richard Leff weighed in on Stevens’ argument.

“I don’t know what our plans are for Spar Hill in the future,” he said. “Does it exclude a bicycle trail? Is that active recreation?”

“You are illustrating exactly my concern,” Stevens told Leff. “We need a third party to oversee this and we need to put on restrictions to protect it from the way it is [written] now.”

“Getting a third party easement in place will allow us to hash out those details and that will take some time, whereas if we do it now ‘as is,’ it doesn’t restrict the township anymore. It allows open space funds to be used.”

“We can’t rebuild it once it is torn down,” Stevens said. “And if things don’t work out with TLC, then we’re stuck with what we decide tonight, and I’m not prepared to take that risk.”

The board also punted on the adoption of Resolution No. 2021-12, that designates these three parcels as open space, in accordance with its Comprehensive Plan, Open Space Network Plan; and Open Space, Trails, & Parks Master Plan.

The proposed ordinance and easements will be addressed at the board’s June 2 meeting.

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