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Solebury postpones open space spending


In the brave new world of COVID-19, the Solebury supervisors closed the Municipal Building and for the first time conducted their meeting from their homes via a Zoom video teleconference on April 21.

Before the online session started, residents signed up to speak and were called on as the meeting progressed.

A moment of silence was held at the beginning of the meeting for the 1,500 Pennsylvania residents, including 112 from Bucks County, who have died of the disease.

One of the items caught up in the COVID-19 pandemic, Chair Mark Baum Baicker said, is the plan to borrow $5 million for open space conservation funding.

“When the coronavirus crisis first hit, initially, municipal bond rates dropped and we decided to try to make lemonade out of lemons and expedite that borrowing to late April to take advantage of potentially incredibly low rates,” he said.

However, now rates have increased, plus the pandemic “is likely to take a major bite out of our tax revenues this year and next. We thus have put off our borrowing for the time being.”

Supervisor Kevin Morrissey noted that because of previous budgeting decisions Solebury “is one of the most prepared to weather this” COVID-19 situation.

Baum Baicker said the township feels confident it has enough funds to cover the properties now in the conservation pipeline. “But the long-term borrowing that we had contemplated is now very much on hold.”

He did have some good news to report, namely that the contractor performing the restoration at Aquetong Spring Park has been granted a waiver by the state and has begun work on the project.

He also noted that at the township’s request the county has agreed to postpone the deadline for paying real estate taxes from June 30 to July 31. However, the deadline get the early payment discount was not extended and remains at April 30.

The board also:

- On recommendation of the township’s Land Preservation Committee (LPC), gave final approval to pay $500,000 to the Manoffs for a conservation easement for 35.72 acres at 3157 Comfort Road.

- Also on the LPC’s recommendation, approved an agreement of sale for a conservation easement for D&H Holding for the 14.93-acre Solomon property at 3216 Comfort Road for a purchase price of $155,172. If no negative comments are received in the next two week, the sale documents will be finalized.

- Authorized James and Adrienne Mageras to submit an Agricultural Security Area (ASA)application to the township and the county.

The state ASA program helps to protect farmers from issues arising from new development occurring in areas historically used primarily for farming. It promotes viable farming operations by protecting farmers from nuisance ordinances and by enabling them to participate in state farmland preservation programs. Properties in agricultural security areas are not necessarily preserved farms, although many have been preserved.

Participation in an ASA is voluntary for a landowner or group of landowners, whose parcels together must comprise at least 250 acres. Parcels must be viable agricultural land and may be comprised of non-contiguous tracts at least 10 acres in size.

For the foreseeable future supervisor meetings will be conducted via Zoom video teleconference, the next being on Tuesday, May 5.