Township Thinking Now About Future Open Space Buys

SANATOGA PA – As local real estate sales start to climb again, and properties previously off the market become available, the Lower Pottsgrove Township Board of Commissioners is increasingly being asked if it wants to add land to its parks and open space holdings. The answer, board members say, is “yes,” but only with care and planning.

“Acquiring more open space could be a good thing. It’s something really important we need to look at over the next year or so,” Commissioner Michael McGroarty advocates, “but we’ve got to look at the long term.”

Lower Pottsgrove's Pleasantview Park, at North Pleasant View and Bliem roads, will someday be created from open space purchased with financial help from Montgomery County.

Lower Pottsgrove’s Pleasantview Park, at North Pleasant View and Bleim roads, will someday be created from open space purchased with financial help from Montgomery County.

“And we’ve got to put priorities on the pieces we want,” Commissioner James Kaiser adds.

Kaiser and McGroarty formed the township’s 2013 budget committee, and spent considerable time creating a multi-year plan for fellow commissioners to potentially meet Lower Pottsgrove’s growing capital improvement needs. During the board’s last meeting, they urged a similar approach to buying real estate that would be permanently preserved as open space.

The township ambitiously pursued open space purchases in years past, in part because outside grants were offered and because prime acreage came to market at what was then a reasonable price. It further invested in and approved vendors’ specific plans for park development and usage, a process that heavily relied on community participation. McGroarty was among those who regularly attended park planning discussions.

Before spending more money open space, particularly in a still-tight economy, McGroarty suggested the board must determine “how we handle things moving forward. We need to answer, ‘How do we do it? Is the community interested? How do we fund it?’ It’s a big nut, but ultimately it benefits the community.”

A referendum to gauge public sentiment for setting aside cash for open space funding, or instituting a parks-and-recreation or open space tax, might be among the options, commissioners said. “We ought to consider all possibilities,” board President Jonathan Spadt agreed.

Future development also will play a role in the open space mix, Spadt noted. At least one residential contractor, who several years earlier received preliminary approval for a housing community on Lower Pottsgrove’s east side, is tentatively scheduled to return to commissioners during February (2013) to further flesh out his building plans, including a provision for up to 10 acres of open space.

“That’s something we’ll want to look at comprehensively,” Spadt said.

Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ Dec. 20 meeting):

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