The following was submitted to Radnor Patch by Rich Booker, Radnor resident and Republican candidate for Second Ward Commissioner.
“It’s a done deal.”
That’s what I was told one of the Commissioners said last week, about the purchase of 60 acres at the Ardrossan site.
Hard to believe, but it appears likely that at the next Board of Commissioner’s meeting, they will vote to approve a deal that would require Radnor Township to pay about $12 million dollars to the developer at Ardrossan.
What are they buying, and at what cost per acre? They won’t tell the public. In addition, they won’t explain how they can possibly purchase land on behalf of the Township without a public hearing, let alone a referendum.
The Commissioners, driven by Board President Elaine Shaefer, are in the process of making a deal to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to acquire a “view shed” at Newtown Road and Darby Paoli Rd., and other property consisting primarily of wetlands, steep slope areas and riparian buffers. I value open space and parkland in Radnor. However, we should not spend taxpayer money for unusable land that would never be developed anyway.
In this case, it has been well documented (by Rob Murdocca - http://radnor.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/opinion-stop-radnor-from-overpaying-for-leftover-ardrossan-pieces, among others), that the amount that they are planning to pay for land that could never be developed, is about three times more than comparable purchases of open space. Land that is not suitable for development is not nearly worth the approximately $185,000 per acre price tag that Elaine Shaefer and other Commissioners want to pay.
In fact, I would argue that a shrewd Board of Commissioners should be able to convince a developer that it would be in his or her best interest, to work with the Township to donate open space on their property, or to convey it to the Township for a nominal fee. The local government holds all of the cards on what they will allow to be built on a property; and therefore can exercise a great deal of influence in working with a developer to provide a benefit to the Township. In contrast, Radnor’s Board of Commissioners, especially its President, have shown they are poor at the “art of the deal.” They are apparently much more sentimental than they are pragmatic—and in this case, the developer is laughing at them all the way to the bank.
The Democrat Commissioners are going to ink a deal, that will provide the developer at Ardrossan with $12 million in cash, for land he would never have used for construction anyway; while concurrently, he will be receiving a “density modification” that will allow him to build on lots that will be one half the size that would otherwise be required! Put differently, our Commissioners are handing the developer $12 million, and for the privilege of being allowed to pay him, they are allowing him to build out the site for maximum return on his investment (estimated to exceed $120 million).
Not since the proverbial emperor paid a handsome sum for clothes so fine that they were invisible, has such a deal been struck.
Unfortunately, it is the Radnor Taxpayers that will foot the bill for this injustice. Adding insult to injury, the Board of Commissioners is committing the Township to this purchase without any transparency in the process, whatsoever. The entire negotiation has been undertaken in secret.
As recommended by the Radnor Citizen’s Budget and Finance Advisory Committee (CBFAC), I am calling on the Board of Commissioners to hold public hearings to present to the taxpayers of Radnor a full accounting of the proposed Ardrossan expenditure, the reasons for it, and the specific benefits to all at-large citizens from such purchase, prior to executing any deal with the developer.
Yes, I am aware that there was a referendum passed seven years ago. The 2006 referendum on preserving open space provided only a funding mechanism, it did not provide for specific purchases of land. The CBFAC concluded in its report on this issue that the $20 million of Electoral Debt capacity approved by the taxpayers during November 2006 referendum, was drafted in a general nature “to preserve open space” and not to purchase a specific parcel. Further, they concluded that “major acquisitions should be the subject of a referendum.”
The response from the Radnor constituents on this issue has been consistent and relentless. The Township values open space, but believes that the price to be paid here is much too high. Further, the taxpayers want to hear what exactly the Commissioners want to buy before they commit the funds. We should not use taxpayer funds to purchase property that would never have been developed.
Why are Elaine Shaefer and the other Democrat Commissioners rushing to complete this transaction, away from public scrutiny? Why are they ignoring the voices of the public, which are calling for more information and an accounting of the benefits?
They don’t seem to care what the constituents think. They think that they know better than we do what we want, and what is good for us.
In the words of Mr. Murdocca, please do everything you can to stop Elaine Shaefer, Bill Spingler, John Nagle and Jim Higgins from casting a purchase vote for those leftover Ardrossan pieces.
We must show them that we deserve and demand better.
Richard F. Booker