The Board of Supervisors accepted a list of properties that could be preserved as open space, but the process is still in its infancy.
The township gained the authority to borrow up to $3.5 million toward the purchase of open space when a majority of residents voted in favor of a referendum in November 2014. Residents were welcomed to voice their opinion on a number of potential spaces during a township open house in April.
An open space task force, made up of about 14 individuals, began work identifying the properties in February 2015, township Manager Doug Erickson said. Working from a list of 90 properties, the list was eventually whittled down to the locations brought before the board Wednesday evening.
Supervisors were presented with four spaces for consideration. According to Erickson, purchase of several properties is possible, but purchase of all the properties would be too costly.
Identified as the top priority properties are two portions of the undeveloped Toftrees property to the west of Waddle Road, Erickson said. The properties could be used to enhance the wood buffer between the development and the Bellefonte Central Rail Trail from Alto Lane to the Cedar Cliff neighborhood.
This would total more than 16 acres, according to township documents.
A third property would be adjacent with the first two, Erickson said, lying between Cedar Cliff and Toftrees totaling about 14 acres. This would provide additional buffer space between the developments.
The fourth property totals about 150 acres, he said, and is located south of Gray’s Woods Boulevard and the Gray’s Woods park. A portion of this property crosses into Halfmoon Township.
Several board members were upset that the fourth property didn’t rank higher as a priority, saying it was a valuable property.
Task force member Phil Park said when the group was considering properties, they considered which areas would benefit the most people of the township. Property four is special, he said, but more people would have access to the top three areas.
Areas within the regional growth boundary will fill up first, he said, and the township likely won’t have the opportunity to purchase additional property for another 10 years. As the top three locations are well within the boundary, they received the highest priority.
The board voted 3-1 in favor of accepting the task force’s recommendation. Erickson said the next step is negotiations with the property owners, noting that the township has a maximum of $3.5 million to spend and cannot pay more than the appraised amount.