Without much debate, ask anyone which is the most fiercely rural township in Northampton County, and Williams Township would be near or at the top of the list.
The future of the township's progressive open space tax was debated during Wednesday night's board of supervisors meeting.
Mind you, no decision was made, the three-member body merely discussed a presentation offered by the township's land preservation board, although before the evening expired each of them gave a crowded room a pretty good idea of where they stood.
"This is something that needs to be looked into," said Vice Chairman Vince Foglia. "I don't think we can ignore we can improve this program." Foglia added, however, that his statement did not indicate that he would vote to suspend it, but he was clear, that in his view, there is a "big inconsistency" with where the program is at now, versus the original premise for starting the program in the first place.
Saying that he was "open-minded" about the subject and would seek to learn as much as possible, Chairman George Washburn said he was "not sure" if he would support the open space program.
There was no such ambiguity when it came to Supervisor Sally Hixson's stance.
"I am 100 percent behind land preservation," she said. Adding that the preservation of farmland and open space enhances the township's quality of lifeand protects the health and general welfare of its residents.
During Wednesday night's meeting, a history of the township's open space program was presented by the Land Preservation Board.
The program was created 11 years ago and two years later, 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.
Since its inception, a total of 15 properties with a combined total of more than 1,000 acres were preserved at a cost of more than $2.3 million, with more than $5.4 million brought in from outside sources, bringing the total land preserved to about 1,380 acres.
One of the topics sure to get eyeballed closely during the next few months by supervisors is the fact that there is about $1.2 million stockpiled in open space account from this tax. The substantial amount begs the question among at least one township resident Wednesday night, Kathy Lilley, who inquired why wouldn't the township eliminate or at least suspend the tax until that amount was drained.
Another topic of concern is that the Land Preservation Board noted that no one is applying for the status, and they are reduced to brainstorming to find creative ways to drum up interest.
Part of the problem, members noted to supervisors' Wednesday night, is that the application process is lengthy with a capital "L." Indeed officials noted a 12-step process that is on par with watching the grass grow,often taking years and years for an applicant to clear all the red tape. Still, they say it is well worth the wait.
The debate will continue over the next few months.