Public outrage grows as proposed zoning changes threaten future of preserved farm.
An online petition has been launched to demand preservation for one of Bucks County's most beautiful and fertile farms, the Patterson Farm in Lower Makefield Township. Over 250 signatures have been received in support of preservation, and comments left by signers indicate their disgust at proposed zoning changes.
The historic landmark Patterson Farm, founded by Quaker settlers in the late 1600's, is considered the cornerstone of the township and has produced a variety of food crops during its' lengthy history. Proposed zoning changes threaten to alter the use of the farm, which was obtained by the township for the purpose of preservation in a controversial Eminent Domain taking fifteen years ago.
Over $7 million in taxpayers funds, including Open Space funding, was used to purchase the farm at substantially less than its market value from former owners, Thomas & Alice Patterson. The Pattersons sought to preserve their land and had enrolled it in the townships Agricultural Security District shortly before the condemnation, a precursor to application for enrollment in the state Farmland Preservation program.
Township officials now claim the cost of maintaining the farm necessitates the sale of a parcel, and future development projects, but farm preservation supporters strongly disagree and assert that officials have misspent farm revenue and willfully neglected the maintenance of the property. The farm has consistently earned land rental income from local farmers.
A public zoning hearing is scheduled for March 5th at the Lower Makefield Township municipal building. At stake is the future of the oldest frame home existent in the township, the Satterthwaite/Doan house, with its surrounding Patterson Farm land and historic agricultural buildings. Should zoning changes be allowed, a commercial development is planned for the site. Neighbors have rigorously opposed the project.
"We seek perpetual preservation of the farm so members of the community will enjoy fresh locally grown food 100 years from now and beyond" said Patterson Farm Preservation group founder Donna Doan, "The townships plan to sell off the Satterthwaite/Doan house and the buildings that support the farms' use for agriculture will irrevocably damage the farm and ensure there will never again be a place for a future farmer and family to reside on the farm while working the land. Four supervisors stand to ruin what generations of farmers have protected for the past 325 years."
Township officials claim there are no funds available for preservation, while giving a rent-free lease of the Janney-Brown house, former home of the Pattersons, to an artists group. According to documents obtained using the Right To Know Law, the township received $483,581 when Patterson Farm land was taken by PennDot to build the I-95 Newtown exit loop. Residents question whether funds were mismanaged by township officials.
Last year members of the public and the Bucks County Open Space Planning Board opposed the construction of the Brightfarms commercial complex on the farms' Open Space preserved land. Residents suggested a better location for the hydroponic greenhouse, which does not use soil, would have been a reclaimed brownfield area that could not otherwise produce crops.
Despite public outcry, township officials okayed Brightfarms construction on prime Patterson farmland that was leased to a local farmer, and have subdivided the farm, refusing to allow the public to undertake a restoration effort on the Satterthwaite/Doan house. Supervisors voted 4-1 to sell the parcel, with supervisor Jeff Benedetto being the lone supporter of preservation on the board.
Click the link to access the petition and read comments from the public:
For more information visit Friends of Patterson Farm Preservation on Facebook, follow @PattersonFarmPA on Twitter, or visit www.PattersonFarmPreservation.com.