Patton Township prepares to move forward on open-space reservation after referendum passes

The Board of Supervisors is preparing the next steps to an open space referendum that was passed during elections on Tuesday.

According to township Manager Doug Erickson, the referendum passed with 63 percent of the vote, slightly down from the 67.5 percent predicted in a survey conducted earlier this year.

Unofficial results revealed that the referendum passed 2,378-1,372.

The referendum allows for the township to borrow $3.5 million, through a bond issue or bank loan, toward the purchase and preservation of open land. An increase of 0.6 mills of property tax would support payments of 4 percent interest over 20 years.

The next step is the creation of an ad hoc panel of resident volunteers to inventory the undeveloped parcels in the township, Erickson said. The parcels will then be evaluated and ranked in order to find which parcels will provide the most value for its open space.

“It’s a great opportunity for someone to help out in a process they voted for,” Chairman Elliot Abrams said.

Once the parcels have been evaluated, the next step is to start contacting owners, Erickson said, and start working toward a deal.

“Some properties may be worth more than the township has,” he said, “but it’s always worth it to ask.”

The township scored a deal in 2001 when a similar referendum allowed for the eventual purchase of 465 acres along Circleville Road. The property had been appraised at $8 million at the time, but the owner didn’t want to see the area developed, so he agreed to sell it to the township for $2.5 million.

Anyone interested in being part of the panel should contact Erickson at the Patton Township Municipal Building, where a list will be compiled of willing volunteers.

Township resident Anthony Grillo, of Varsity Lane, said the referendum spoke well of the residents but also spoke to the question of developing areas, which he said take up a lot of space and don’t add to the environment.

“The more we cut it up and chop it down, the less attractive this area will be,” he said.

The referendum only deals with willing sellers, Abrams said. A developer has the right to develop a tract of land. The only other option of preventing development on a piece of property would be by the township taking the land from the owner, which is also very expensive.

With a referendum, Supervisor Jeff Luck said, if the township acquires a property, the township can keep that property.