Letter: Open space loan shouldn’t be used for Barnard House

To The Editor:

Pocopson Township has about one million dollars left over from a loan they took out to purchase the land development rights of homeowners. This venture was started out a few years ago as a ballot initiative over open space, and recently the sunset provision of that ordinance has come to pass.

Since the township was unable to convince enough landowners to sell their development rights, the remaining money from the loan should be used to payoff the loan early and reduce our debt burden. Its been mentioned that some supervisors want to use this million dollars to pay for renovations to the Bernard House. When residents voted for the open space ballot initiative, I am positive that no one envisioned the open space funds being used for a new township building renovation.

Some of the newer residents may not remember this, but what is now called Pocopson Park was supposed to be sold to pay for the township building on Rt. 52. However, after the new building was erected, the idea of a township park was hatched and idea of selling the land to pay for the building waned.

If the supervisors of Pocopson want to borrow a million dollars to renovate the Bernard House, then the voters should have a say in this matter. When the open space ordinance was passed, each voter had the opportunity to vote on the issue. Why not do it again and allow the voters to decide whether or not they wish to burden themselves with this debt through a voter referendum? It is not my intention to pick sides, I just think that its only fair that every voice be heard. Especially when the folks behind those voices will have to foot the bill for this endeavor.

Sean C. Rafferty

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  1. B. Bruns says:

    Sean and Kristin have brought up valid concerns regarding the Pocopson budget. Barnard House is not lovely, it is not great architecture and it is not very old. Work has already been done on the flooring. I suggest we spend what is required to replace a kitchenette and bathrooms and walls and call it a day. The underground RR can move in and other rooms can be used for township needs. Then the township can consider building a separate township building on a separate slab at a later date- when all open space debts have been paid.

    In the meantime, let’s pay off the large open space debt and get the double township tax off the books. The original referendum was for 3 years but that was extended by the Supervisors which shows you have to beware of township referendums. Township meetings can be snore fests so the public generally doesn’t sign up for them. So maybe some organized involvement would be helpful to address this issue.

    Don’t misunderstand. My hat is off to everyone who serves as a Supervisor–it’s a time-consuming, not very thrilling job focused on community service. I’m sure the Pocopson Supervisors would be open to responsible redirection of budget funds. But if we want to redirect funding and activities, I think we -the community-have to step up to the plate and let the Supervisors know that.

  2. Kristin Hoover says:

    I agree completely. Money obtained for one purpose should not be turned toward another. We cannot afford the Barnard House renovation. It isn’t right to take money under the guise of open space preservation and use it for something else. It may be legal, but it feels like stealing to me.

    I was against the open space referendum, but it passed anyway. I never thought that it was reasonable to try to use taxpayer money to buy open space. Land (or conservation rights) is too expensive and taxpayer money is too constrained to ever be able to keep pace. My parents who grew up during the Great Depression were always clear about “needs” vs “wants.” Government needs to concentrate on what it can do with proper zoning restrictions and what it approves.

    I get the importance of open space. My graduate degree is in environmental biology so I understand why it is important to the ecology of the area. Every glimpse out my front window is a lesson in the obscene use of a hundred acres of prime Pocopson farmland as I look at the ugly, tacky Toll Brothers houses that are stuck so close together the the only view out the window of one house is into another window or deck. If only the Township had been able to fight it better with existing ordinances that precluded that scar on the landscape! If only the people of Pocopson would have been involved more and not waited until it was too late to show up at any meeting!

    Learning history is important and so is the preservation of that history. However, we cannot save everything forever. We have to be realistic and understand that times are difficult. Barnard House preservation is a “want” and not a “need”. We cannot afford it.

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