VOTE YES! PROP 2
BETHLEHEM TOMORROW SUPPORTS THE TOWN’S PURCHASE 0F 300 ACRES OF HISTORICAL FARMLAND
BT members continue to witness Town resident’s concerns about over development resulting in increased traffic and loss of community identity. Residents attending meetings regarding the Comprehensive Plan Update consistently supported preserving green spaces and farmland.
Now, thru a three-year effort, the Town has an option to purchase nine parcels of farmland below the market value of 4 million dollars to be maintained as farmland and open space. The Town has funds available to purchase the land primarily using available resources from the Farms and Forest Fund without borrowing or creating future fiscal obligations.
This is a rare opportunity to acquire more than 300 acres of prime farmland and apply restricted deeds crafted to continue Bethlehem’s 250 years of farming history. The land will be available for future generations and preserve our current quality of life enhanced by local produce and perhaps a future park. No doubt this decision would be reflected positively in our property values. We urge BT Member to VOTE YES! on Proposition 2 on November 8!
HOW WILL THE PURCHASE BE FUNDED?
Proposed financing is as follows:
1. 2/3—from the existing Farm and Forest Fund * and
2. 1/3 from available funds in our capital accounts – American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the Parkland Set Aside, and the General Fund Capital Reserve Fund.
The purchase of these lands is an allowable, and we think appropriate, use of these funds. We believe this expenditure is a compelling and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
HOW WILL THE LAND BE USED?
Under current private ownership there are no restrictions on the development of these 300 acres of farmland. We can assume that, like most other available land in Bethlehem, it would be rapidly developed. If purchased by the Town, the Town would place restrictions on the deed protecting the land from any future housing or other development. The land would have agricultural easements requiring that it must be used for purposes such as agricultural, farmlands, parks, and hiking trails.
Were the land not purchased by the Town, it is reasonable to project it would be developed for residential housing or other uses. Those houses would require additional Town expenditures for roads, water, sewer, and maintenance. The largest new Town expenditure would likely be for the Bethlehem school district. The district has consistently stated that residential property taxes do not cover the full costs of educating our new residents.
It is clear that the Town has a choice between development and open spaces. Do we follow what we have said we want – open spaces, less traffic, and a healthier environment? Or do we let our remaining land be developed as in the past? Which path do we tell the next generation we took? Vote YES! on Proposition 2 on November 8.
Details about this historic opportunity can be found on the Town of Bethlehem's website.
A Save Bethlehem's Farms and Open Space campaign committee has also been formed. They are looking for volunteers for a range of voter education efforts. You can find more information about that campaign and how you can get involved on their Facebook page.
*About the Farms & Forests Fund - Established in 2019, the Farms & Forests Fund helps interested landowners keep farms, forests, and fields in Bethlehem. Bethlehem partners with landowners, conservation groups, and agricultural nonprofits to ensure that our community’s rich landscape of farms and forests, meadows, and creeks, persists alongside our residential neighborhoods, commercial districts, and industries.