The North Whitehall Township Board of Supervisors has approved an ordinance authorizing the placement of the following ballot question. The Questions asks: Are you willing to pay an assessment of .1 of a mill of assessed property tax to be used for Farm Land and Open Space Preservation?
This ballot question was approved at the Primary Election Ballot held on Tuesday May 21, 2019. The current Township property tax is .5 of a mill. (1/2 of 1%) The approved increase would places the property tax at .6 of a mill. A mill is $1.00 for each $1,000. of assessed value of a property. For example, the average property in North Whitehall Township is assessed at $250,000 and currently pays $125.00 in Township property taxes. $250,000., divided by 1000 = $250. $250 X .5 equals $125.00. Under this example the an increase to .6 of a mill would increase the annual tax bill on this property to $150.00, an increase of $25.00
The funds that are raised from this tax assessment will be placed in a separate restricted account that may not be used for other Township purposes. The money will be allocated by the Board of Supervisors to purchase Farm Preservation Development Rights or Open Space. It may also be used to further develop existing open space such as major park improvements Open Space lands can be used for parks, ball fields, general greenways and walking trails. In addition open space can be used for community gardens or left as open meadows or woods to create green buffers around development and to preserve native habitat. Property owners who wish to sell their development rights must work through Lehigh County to have their property assessed and placed on a list of properties to be preserved. For 2019 there are currently over 80 properties on the waiting list. Each property is evaluated and assessed based on a list of criteria. Properties receiving the highest ranking may received up to the maximum of $6,000. per acre. Less desirable property may receive less. The goal of this referendum is to create a fund to provide assistance to the Lehigh County program. Municipalities that can provide funding help stretch the available County funding and help get more properties into the program. Once a farm or property is preserved, the owner may not develop the property for any uses other than farming, timbering or other farm related activities. It may not be sold to a developer who would like to build houses or businesses. Once a property is preserved, it may still be sold to a new owner, but the restrictions against development carry with the property.
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