Ag values TDRs support growth while saving farms
By: GARY P. KLINGER Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer
County officials were in Warwick Township last week to applaud the township’s model role in farmland preservation.
The discussion during the Dec. 21 supervisors meeting was about the Transferable Development Rights (or TDR) program, which has helped save 21 local farms and more than 1,300 acres over the last two decades.
The program transfers fees from new development in properly zoned areas of the township, such as the Route 501 corridor, to farmland preservation sites. Without it, the nine-generation Bomberger farm on Memorial Drive, which has been in the same family since the birth of George Washington, would struggle to continue.
County Commissioners such as Dennis Stuckey recognizes the value of such efforts, congratulating all who have made the program a success, and pointing out that the township has preserved agricultural production as a way of life. He referred to the nearly 140 million people living along the eastern seaboard which ag production from Warwick Township helps to feed.
"Just remember, the Chinese cannot feed themselves and have to import a large amount of their food," he said. "I’m very pleased with the way in which this board and local administration has exerted leadership. Dan Zimmerman (Warwick Twp. manager), who also serves on the Ag Preserve Board, is also to be commended. He understands the importance of ag preserve."
Stuckey was joined by Matt Knepper, director of the Ag Preserve Board; Jeff Swinehart, deputy director of Lancaster Farmland Trust; Joe Waters with R.J. Waters & Associates, representatives of the Heart of Lancaster Regional Medical Center and Sechan Electronics; and members of the Bomberger Family, a local farm which has been in the same family since 1732.
"This is one of the most successful TDR programs in Lancaster County," said a beaming C. Logan Myers, chairman of the board of supervisors. "This is thanks to the great partnership between the township, the county, local businesses and land owners and developers."
In a press release, the township explained that under Warwick Township’s zoning ordinance, the TDR program assigns every farm within the agricultural zone one transferable development right for each two gross acres of farmland. TDRs are purchased from farmers who wish to preserve their farmland. The purchase price is based on the fair market value of the farmland at the time the TDRs are sold.
Since 1991, the TDR program has been successful in preserving 21 farms comprised of more than 1,337 acres of farmland.
TDRs are sold for the purpose of increasing lot coverage in the Campus Industrial Zone, where development such as the hospital and the Sechan Electronics expansion occurs. In order to ensure sound land use practices, the maximum lot coverage within the Campus Industrial Zone is 10 percent; however, for each transferable development right acquired, an additional 4,000 square feet of lot coverage is permitted, up to a maximum of 70 percent coverage.
The township partners with the Lancaster County Agricultural Preserve Board and/or Lancaster Farmland Trust to preserve farmland. The funds generated by the sale of TDRs are specifically used to preserve additional farmland within Warwick Township.
The township also partners with developers to review and determine the number of TDRs needed for a specific project within the Campus Industrial Zone. The number of TDRs needed is based on the size of the project, and the size of the tract where the project would be located. This partnership has been successful in selling 278 TDRs since 2001, redirecting more than $685,000 to farmland preservation.
The TDR program has been an effective planning tool in preserving prime agricultural areas, while directing growth in a responsible and efficient manner.
In his comments, Knepper congratulated the township on having already preserved 12 farms and noted that three more are on deck for preservation in the coming year.
"There are approximately 1,000 acres preserved just within the township alone," he said. "It takes developers and businesses on the other side to make this work. You recognize this and have worked well within the township and the county."
Swinehart commended township leaders for their foresight dating back to the late 1990s, when the TDR program was started.
"It speaks volumes to your commitment to agriculture, to the township and to the county in particular," he said. "This has been a great platform for developers to also be engaged in smart growth principles. Your work is vitally important to feeding future generations."
Greg Bomberger is the owner of the Sunnyside Farm, located on Memorial Drive. Along with his father and son Matthew, they represent the seventh, eighth and ninth generation of his family to farm at that location. With pride, Bomberger pointed to a framed copy of the original deed to the property, signed by ancestor Christian Bomberger and William Penn’s three sons.
"I want to thank the people responsible for farmland ag preserve in the township," Bomberger said to township leaders, the ag preserve board and others present. "This program has made it possible for us to reduce our farm debt and to improve our buildings. It has also helped make it possible that our farm has had continuous family ownership for 279 years."
In fact, George Washington was born the same year Christian Bomberger purchased the land from the Penns.
"I hope that in the future we can continue to forge these great partnerships and take important strides in planning and maintaining the rich agricultural heritage of Lancaster County," commented Myers.
Wednesday’s meeting was also substantial in that supervisors voted to officially authorize dissolving the Warwick Township Police Department. The move was unanimous and transfers all police equipment and personnel to the newly-formed Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Department, or NLCRPD. It also paves the way for any other action necessary for the NLCRPD to become fully operational. This is on target to be complete by the end of 2011.
The regional department, which covers Warwick, Penn and Clay townships, officially went into effect Dec. 26, according to its chief, David Steffen.
The Warwick Township Police Department was founded in 1962. According to township officials, the regionalization concept was discussed as far back as 1980.
"We have reached operational readiness and we’re ready to assume full police protection of the region," said Chief Steffen during the Dec. 21 meeting. "Everything continues to fall into place in just the right manner."
Steffan characterized the process of putting together the new regional police force as "nothing short of an amazing process." And he should know, having previously worked for the York Regional Police Department.
"A lot of things have come together in a team concept," Steffen said to the supervisors. "Everyone is excited. Everybody is performing well and doing every little thing to make this concept work. All three townships will enjoy a lot more effectiveness than we ever had before."
Supervisor Tony Chinski congratulated both Steffan and Zimmerman for their hard work in bringing the new department together.
"What I have seen of Dave’s leadership has been excellent," he said. "Like the rest of the township, things are taken care of and handled quiet well. The guys are excited. Dan (Zimmerman) and his folks and the chief have done a wonderful job."
Supervisor David Kramer asked Chief Steffan about an official swearing-in ceremony for the new force. Steffan explained that all officers had been sworn in anticipation of the department becoming active. He further explained that beginning on Dec. 26, county 911 operators would begin dispatching the NLCRPD to respond to calls as a regional entity.
As far as a ceremonial swearing-in of the officers, Steffan said that one would be scheduled, but time was needed to be sure all invitations could be sent out in a timely manner.
"This makes 23 years!"
That was Township Manager Zimmerman’s response to a question regarding how long the township’s run without a tax increase had been.
For the 23rd time, township supervisors approved a budget which was balanced without the need to increase property taxes.
Not only will property taxes remain unchanged, so too will street light assessments.
With little fanfare and even less discussion, the 2012 fiscal budget was approved last week with a unanimous vote. The vote sets township real estate taxes at 2.74 mills, which amounts to $27.40 per $100,000 of assessed real estate value.
In fact, so little was the fanfare that during the period leading up to Wednesday’s vote the township had no residents visit to review the budget, nor did it field any calls with questions or comments on the draft document which was advertised for review in this paper and available at the township office.
Supervisors will again meet on Tuesday, Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. for their annual reorganization meeting. A regular meeting will also be held at that time. More WARWICK TOWNSHIP, page A2