The results from the May 17 election are in, and it is official: East Allen Township will be forging ahead with an Open Space Plan. Eighty percent of East Allen Township residents voted in favor of a referendum establishing a one-quarter-percent Earned Income Tax for preserving township open space and farmland. This resounding support for a township Open Space Plan comes after more than two years of grassroots efforts, resident volunteerism and community educational programs.
“[The answer was] very loud and clear,” Township Manager Brent Green said during the May 26 Board of Supervisors meeting, the first following the referendum.
Green added that the 80 percent in-favor vote is among one of the highest the state of Pennsylvania has seen. There were 1,244 total votes cast, with 955 votes in favor. The total votes cast that day were equivalent to the number cast during a presidential election.
An Open Space Plan, according to the East Allen Township website, “will help East Allen Township protect its natural resources, agricultural land, park land, environmentally sensitive land, as well as recreation and open space.”
The Earned Income Tax, which totals roughly $2.98 per week, will help support this plan by obtaining matching grants and increasing funds available for land preservation. The EIT can only go toward land acquisition or development rights.
The township’s open space committee dedicated the past two years to educating residents on the benefits of an Open Space Plan.
“There [were] a lot of misconceptions with the open space program,” said Green. He praised the committee for getting out into the community, attending events, and showing residents “this is where [their] money is going.”
“Without the committee’s help….we would have been really nowhere,” he continued. “We had a dozen people who spread that support through the community.”
“I want to thank everybody,” continued Supervisor Roger Unangst. “It was a lot of effort,”
“I think it was a great success,” added Supervisor Chris Cruz, a member of the committee. “And there is still a lot of hard work ahead of us.”
Next, Green will work with the township solicitor to draft an open space EIT ordinance for the board to vote on. Green is also creating a schedule for implementing an open space plan, and is reviewing similar programs in neighboring municipalities.
In other news, the Board of Supervisors discussed possible facility upgrades. These included a public works storage building, ADA upgrades to the municipal building, and a salt storage building. Green is obtaining quotes for the projects and will present them to the board at future meetings.
The board also approved upgrades to the basketball and tennis courts at Bicentennial Park. The basketball court at Bicentennial Park West will be re-coated for $25,220, while the tennis court at Bicentennial Park East will receive new galvanized fencing for roughly $25,000.
The next Board of Supervisors meeting will be on June 8 at 7 p.m.