Lehigh Valley

Tax breaks for preservation land owners may end in Williams Twp.

WILLIAMS TWP., Pa. - While the Williams Township Board of Supervisors failed to approve an ordinance  to end tax breaks for farmers who agree to preserve their land during Wednesday night's meeting, it was only because they believe someone else is going to do it.

It was revealed that supervisors had spoken with officials from Northampton County who have indicated to them during the past few days that they are looking into the matter to end the tax break program in the township.

Only the preserved portion of the easement is entitled to the millage freeze, according to a letter read by Chairman George Washburn who indicated the letter was emailed by Northampton County Assessment Manager, Cheryl Johnson.

The fact that the county plans to take up the mantle was enough for Washburn not to pursue the matter further at this time, he said Wednesday night.

That view ran contrary to that of Commissioner Vincent Foglia who made an impassioned plea to repeal Ordinance 2007-8, first enacted in 2007, under the premise it wasn't fair to the rest of the township's residents - more than 3,330 he said - who received no tax breaks.

"How much are we going to interfere with the free market," said Foglia in a stern voice during his dissertation on why he was voting for the repeal which he anointed a "taxpayer transfer of wealth."

His motion to repeal the ordinance was never seconded by Commissioner Ray Abert or Washburn.

Under the program, property owners must permanently give up their right to develop their land in exchange for the tax breaks.

The premise of the program being that it will retain the rural characteristics of the township located south of Easton.

In other business Wednesday night, supervisors voted 2-1 to begin the process to have the legal requirements met to place a referendum on the November ballot that will ask voters if they wish to "continue" a .25 percent earned income tax for open space properties, with Abert providing the dissenting vote under the auspice he would like to see the referendum delayed until 2015.

The Open Space program was created 12 years ago and in 2004, voters approved a referendum to collect an extra .25 percent in Earned Income Tax to fund the land preservation by a 70 to 30 percent margin.

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