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NEWTOWN, PA-The Bucks County Board of Elections has approved the inclusion of a referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot that calls for an $87-million open-space bond. It follows by 10 years a $57-million open-space initiative that won overwhelming approval of the county’s voters in 1997 and helped preserve more than 15,000 acres between then and year-end 2006.

The current proposal “would ensure that land preservation continues in Bucks County,” says Michael Fitzpatrick, a lawyer with Langhorne-based Begley Carlin & Mandio LLP and one of three chairs of Save Bucks County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group devoted to campaigning in favor of the bond. “There is no organized opposition,” he says, and the referendum is not in reaction to any specific developments, but rather an effort to continue the earlier program.

“It is the same as the previous bond with one new component,” Fitzpatrick tells GlobeSt.com. “That is the inclusion of Delaware riverfront preservation and access to the Delaware.” Proceeds of the $87 million are divided among five programs. The acquisition and preservation of riverfront land would utilize $7 million.

Another $25 million would be devoted to farmland preservation, and 61 farms with an aggregate of 3,824 acres are on a waiting list, according to Save Bucks County. The preservation of natural areas would receive $11 million to preserve 2,000 acres of an inventory evaluated by the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania.

A total of $26 million would be allotted to municipal open space. Each county municipality would receive a base allotment of $200,000 plus an adjusted share based on each municipality’s land area and a percentage of total county population. The Bucks County park system would receive $18 million to preserve 900 acres for open-space preservation and the connection of existing parklands and trail systems.

The cost of the bond, Fitzpatrick says, “is about nine cents a day, or about $30 per year, per household over the next 10 years. “We’re optimistic,” he adds. “Land preservation efforts have traditionally been well received here.” He acknowledges that some voters, especially those in areas that have already been developed, may not see a benefit, and his organization is not taking a yes vote for granted.

It has lined up speaking engagements, produced signs urging a yes vote and developed a direct mail campaign. In addition, Fitzpatrick says there are about a hundred volunteers who will be going door to door “to educate people about the benefits of the bond issue.” To date, the Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce has remained neutral on the issue.

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