Montgomery Cty. Votes for Open Space Funds (PA)
NORRISTOWN, PA – Montgomery County voters have made their views regarding open space known: they want more of it protected and are willing to pay. Today, county voters approved by an overwhelming 78 percent margin the $150 million County Open Space Referendum, continuing the county’s successful land conservation program.
Nationwide, voters in 16 states approved 64 ballot measures to create approximately $1.2 billion in new public money to protect land for parks and open space, according to the Trust for Public Land (TPL). Overall, 64 of 77 local and state measures nationwide were successful-a success rate of 83 percent. This is an increase from November 2002, when 75 percent of open space ballot measures were successful nationwide.
In Montgomery County, funds approved by the voters will be used to preserve open space and acquire new parks, recreation areas, and recreational trails. Funding will also be available for tree planting, farmland preservation, and the protection and preservation of historic resources. Protection of wildlife habitat and natural areas, as well as land conservation to protect water quality are also high priorities for the county open space program. The county will also make grants to boroughs, townships, and nonprofit organizations for open space preservation projects.
“Montgomery County’s rapid growth is placing increased pressure on open space and water resources,” said Terrence Nolan, director of the Trust for Public Land’s Pennsylvania program. “The voices of voters, who overwhelmingly want to protect remaining open space and natural resources, have been heard. Their “yes” votes will provide new County funding to protect those places that make their communities special.”
The Trust for Public Land’s Conservation Finance program assisted county officials in designing the open space measure and assisted the Green Future Action Fund, a committee formed to promote the bond, in educating voters about the measure.
Montgomery County voters joined voters in 78 communities in 17 states across the country in voting on new funds for land conservation. Other communities in Pennsylvania voting on park and open space measures today included East Hempfield, East Nottingham, Londonderry, London Grove, Lower Oxford, Upper Oxford, West Brandywine, and West Sadsbury.
At $150 million, the Montgomery County measure was one of largest open space measures on the ballot nationwide. Other large park and open space funding measures decided by voters included Arapahoe County, CO ($170 million); Ann Arbor, MI ($58 million); Boulder, CO ($51 million); Hudson County, NJ ($40 million); Huntington, NY ($30 million); San Antonio, TX ($27 million); and Carroll County, GA ($19 million).
A complete list of results from local and state balloting on conservation and parks is available here. The results of Tuesday’s votes will also be published as a report in early 2004.
Earlier in 2003, a total of 34 ballot measures for land conservation-including measures in East Nantmeal ($2 million), Upper Providence Township ($6 million), and Warwick Township ($1.7 million), Pennsylvania-were approved by voters in 15 different states. In total, they raised $546 million for conservation-related purposes.
Most of the measures tabulated by LandVote are property tax increases or general obligation bonds. Bonds are a way for communities to borrow money in order to save land now, while paying off the debt over the next 20 or 30 years. The dollar amounts of each measure are either the total amount of the bond, or in the case of a new tax, the total of the revenue created over the lifetime of the levy (usually 10 to 20 years). When a ballot measure contains no sunset provision, LandVote estimates its revenue total based on a 20-year duration.
“LandVote 2003” is available on the web at www.landvote.org.
The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Established in 1972, TPL is the only national nonprofit working exclusively to protect land for human enjoyment and well-being.