Q&A with candidates for York County Board of Commissioners
Three Republicans and an equal number of Democrats are running for three seats on the York County Board of Commissioners in the 2015 election.
On the Republican ballot, incumbent Chris Reilly will face challengers Susan Byrnes, a health activist, and Kelly Henshaw, a Red Lion councilman.
On the Democratic side, incumbent Doug Hoke will face challengers Henry Nixon, a York City councilman, and Duane Hull, a former Dover Township supervisor.
The top two vote-getters in the May 19 primary from each party will advance to the general election in November.
Sitting President Commissioner Steve Chronister has said he plans to run as an Independent in November after he withdrew from the Republican ballot when his nomination petition was challenged.
As part of its election coverage, The York Dispatch asked each candidate in the primary a series of questions on issues the county faces. We will publish the candidates' answers to one question each Monday until the election.
Question: Since 2008, county funding for farmland preservation has decreased drastically. For example, in 2008 the county contributed $4.1 million to preservation while that amount dropped to $164,875 in 2015, according to the York County Agricultural Land Preservation Program.
Do you believe the county's commitment to farmland preservation has been adequate? Why or why not?
•Susan Byrnes: York County's breathtakingly beautiful countryside is comprised of 2,370 farms with an average size of 123 acres.
Since the inception of the York County Agriculture Land Preservation Board in 1989, 39,904 acres or 20.8% of these farms have been preserved in perpetuity. Funds that made these Easement Purchases happen include federal ($3 million); state ($53 million) and York County ($17 million). The Farm and Natural Lands Trust (FNLT), established in the 1990s, has preserved over 110 properties containing over 9,000 acres. County funding and some localized match secured 10% and the remaining 90% was preserved with donated conservation easements.
The more funds we have available, the longer the waiting list becomes for quality, preservation worthy properties. FNLT also protects streams, forests, wetlands and other landscapes of environments importance.
We must preserve York County's farms and open spaces for future generations. We must encourage our families to Buy Fresh Buy Local to support our hard-working farmers. My family has supported these visionary efforts for over twenty years.
Serving as your York County Commissioner, I would explore collaborative efforts to increase funding to continue the preservation of York County's greatest assets: our breathtakingly beautiful countryside and open spaces.
•Kelly Henshaw: I do believe that the county's commitment to farmland preservation is fair. This belief is based on the fact that York County remains one of the top counties in Pennsylvania with the largest amount of preserved farmland. I believe farmland preservation is the same as many issues facing York County our commissioners must find ways to achieve more with less. The question references the fact that funding has decreased, which is definitely true. My argument would be that reduced spending is often a good thing as long as the residents of York County are still being served.
•Chris Reilly: I believe funding for farmland preservation is adequate at the present time. We are leveraging a significant amount of state money with our annual appropriation. York County currently ranks third in the state in terms of the number of acres preserved. If there is an opportunity to increase funding in the future without having to raise taxes I would consider it.
•Doug Hoke: I have always been a strong supporter of farmland preservation. During budget season, I work with our director to determine what level of county funding will keep our program viable and maximize the allocation of funds we receive from the state each year. I believe we have been doing an adequate job, but hope we can increase our county funding levels in future years.
•Duane Hull: What is the budget line item for this? Farmland preservation is important to York County. Why has the funding decreased? I can't answer this question without more information.
•Henry Nixon: Preserving natural lands and farmlands is an important role of government. Maintaining and preserving a county-wide parks system is important. Preserving our county heritage is important. The county commissioners should work with the taxpayers to determine the value, we in York County, should place on farmland preservation.
I would prefer seeing an enforceable county-wide comprehensive plan for development and expansion that would check sprawl in favor of concentrated areas devoted to commercial, industrial and mixed use, thereby allowing farmlands to be passed on without devastating tax liabilities to the families nor a large infusion of county tax dollars.
— Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.