Econsult Report: Evaluating the Economic Impact of the Ardrossan Acquisition

THE ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF PRESERVING THE OPEN SPACE NEAR ARDROSSAN ESTATE

 1.0    INTRODUCTORY CONTEXT AND EVALUATIVE FRAMEWORK

1.1     Radnor Conservancy and Ardrossan Estate

Radnor Conservancy was established to protect open space and preserve the important natural, cultural, and historic assets of Radnor Township.  The open space around Ardrossan Estate represents just such an asset for the Township, having served as both inspiration and backdrop for the classic movie, “The Philadelphia Story.”  Near Ardrossan Estate are the approximately 71 acre grounds that are the subject of this report.[1] They are a beloved and well-used piece of open space within the Township.

The open space around Ardrossan Estate is currently owned by the Montgomery and Scott family trusts, and Radnor Conservancy has encouraged the Township to purchase the land and hold it in perpetuity as protected open space.  If the Township does not purchase the land, it could be sold to a private developer and developed into residential units.

[1] The open space around the Estate that is the subject of this report is considered to be the approx. 71 acres consisting of Tract A (28 acres), Tract B (16 acres), and Tract C (27 acres).

1.2     The Economic Case for Preserving Open Space

At first blush, it may seem that the decision to preserve the open space around Ardrossan Estate or release it for residential development is matter of weighing intangible considerations against financial ones:  the emotional connection Township residents have to this storied treasure against the economic and tax revenue gains that come along with new development and new uses.   However, upon closer inspection, there are actually two additional and reasonably quantifiable considerations that should factor into such a decision (see Table 1.1):

1. First, new development and new uses do usually generate new revenues for a jurisdiction, but they may generate new expenditures as well, as higher population levels and more intensified usages may translate into additional costs for providing various municipal services such as police, fire, and road maintenance.

2. Second, protected open space actually confers economic benefits on many different levels, so the choice to preserve existing open space rather than develop on it is not without its financial gains to a jurisdiction and its residents.

 

 Table 1.1 – Decision Criteria for Determining Whether to Preserve or Develop on Current Open Space

 

  For Preservation For Development
More Commonly Considered Factors Emotional Attachment to the Open Space Tax Revenue Gains from Development
Less Commonly Considered Factors Additional Expenditures Borne by a Jurisdiction as a Result of DevelopmentEconomic Benefits Generated by Protected Open Space

Source: Econsult Solutions, Inc. (2013)

1.3     Report Overview

This report explores the second consideration, namely that the open space near Ardrossan Estate actually confers economic benefits to the Township and its residents.  There is a growing body of literature on this very issue, which is summarized in this report to provide an introductory context for evaluating investments in preserving open space (Section 2).

The main benefit of protecting open space is that it represents a local amenity that positively influences residential property values, with attendant wealth gains for homeowners and tax base gains for the Township (Section 3).  Furthermore, it also produces gains to the Township and its residents through economic activity, direct use (and attendant health care cost reductions), and ecological services rendered (Section 4).

While these gains in the aggregate may not be perceived as large as those generated by developing over the open space near Ardrossan Estate, they are large enough to warrant inclusion in any discussion weighing the pros and cons of preserving or developing this particular piece of open space within the Township.  Some guidance is offered in this report as to how to insert these considerations into current dialogue on this issue (Section 5).

 

2.0      THE ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF PROTECTING OPEN SPACE

 

2.1     Informing the Public Debate about Preserving or Developing Open Space

There is a growing body of literature that acknowledges, describes, and quantifies the economic benefits associated with preserving open space.  These analyses help inform important policy decisions concerning land, finances, and amenities, which heretofore had been somewhat asymmetric in nature, with one side arguing from the standpoint of financial gains such as jobs created or tax revenues generated, and another side arguing marshaling anecdotes in support of more intangible benefits such as quality of life or aesthetic beauty.

In fact, important policy decisions concerning land, finances, and amenities should be made with both kinds of considerations in mind.  However, the decision-making process can be richer and fairer if the tangible and quantifiable benefits of preserved open space are articulated.

2.2     The Economic Value of Protected Open Space in the Philadelphia Region

This was the thrust behind Greenspace Alliance (GSA) and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s (DVRPC) 2010 study, “Return on Environment: The Economic Value of Protected Open Space in Southeastern Pennsylvania.”  As the Philadelphia region continues to grow in population and in commercial activity, it is of utmost importance to balance development with preservation.

The GSA/DVRPC study, conducted by Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and Econsult Corporation, sought to educate policymakers and the general public by quantifying the aggregate economic gains associated with all protected open space in the five counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery.  It reported economic gains in four categories:

1. Property Value Impacts – An aggregate $16 billion increase in the value of houses located near protected open space (about $10,000 per house), translating into up to $240 million more per year in property tax revenues to municipalities and school districts.

2. Ecological Services Rendered – Water quality services valued at $61 million per year, $37 million per year in flood mitigation services, and air pollution and carbon sequestration services worth $17 million per year.

3. Direct Use Benefits / Health Care Cost Reduction – $577 million in value through recreational activities (about $400 per household), and about $1.3 billion per year in health care cost savings.

4. Jobs and Tax Revenues – About $570 million in annual economic impact, supporting about 7,000 jobs and generating about $30 million in state and local tax revenues.

2.3     An Evaluative Framework for Open Space Decisions

In short, protecting open space does confer real and quantifiable economic benefits.  And it does so in a number of ways and to a number of beneficiaries.

This does not necessarily mean that, in pure financial terms and to a particularly locality, preserving open space is the highest and best use of that particular area of land.  Nor does it mean that, in narrow “return on investment” terms, any upfront or ongoing costs associated with preserving open space will produce the highest possible gain on that deployment of funds.

However, it does mean that when policymakers, private actors, and the general public discuss issues of land, finances, and amenities, the economic value of protecting open space can and should be part of that discussion.  Since decisions about whether a particular piece of open space should be preserved or developed are usually made in part based on financial considerations, it is critical to include in the decision-making criteria the positive economic gains associated with open space preservation, to illustrate that the arguments for open space preservation are financial and tangible in nature as well.

This is the aim of the ensuing sections of this report.  Specifically, an exploration of the property value impact of the open space near Ardrossan Estate will be undertaken (Section 3), as well as consideration of other economic benefit categories (Section 4).


3.0      PROPERTY VALUE IMPACT

3.1     Overview

The main economic benefit produced by the open space near Ardrossan Estate is its positive influence on residential property values.  The positive influence of outdoor amenities such as open space is increasingly studied in economic and econometric terms.  The purpose of this section is to explain this positive influence and to estimate its aggregate amount on the surrounding community.

 3.2     Economic Theory

House sale transactions are oft-studied by economists because they represent data points that are rich with information.  From a typical house sale transaction, one can know the following pieces of information:

 

  1. The date of the sale
  2. The price paid for the house
  3. The location of the house
  4. The physical characteristics of the house (e.g. number of bedrooms, lot size)
  5. The jurisdictions within which the house is located (and thus the package of services it has access to and the mix of taxes it is subject to)
  6. The proximity of the house to various good (e.g. a nice park) and bad (i.e. a dump site) things

Given enough house sale transactions, one can construct a multivariate regression equation in order to decompose the price paid for a house into the individual values of various characteristics, positive and negative, that make up that house.  From such an equation, a determination can be made of the contribution, whether positive or negative, of each individual characteristic of a house to its overall value (e.g. what is the value of having a garage), or of a change in a house’s characteristics (e.g. what is the value of adding one more bedroom).  In this case, the house characteristic that is of interest is whether it is near open space or not.


3.3     The Property Value Impact of Protected Open Space in the Philadelphia Region

It is from this analytical framework that Econsult was able to estimate the aggregate property value impact associated with all protected open space in the Philadelphia region.  Specifically, it conducted a multi-variate regression analysis in which it analyzed all house sales in the Philadelphia region and isolated the incremental benefit associated with proximity to protected open space.

From this analysis, it was determined that the existence of protected open space confers an aggregate $16 billion in positive property value impact within the Philadelphia region, including $2 billion in positive property value impact within Delaware County, where Ardrossan Estate is located (see Table 3.1).

Table 3.1 – Estimated Property Value Impact of Proximity to Protected Open Space in the Philadelphia Region

 

County Property Value Impact ($B) Average per Household
Bucks $2.5 $10,100
Chester $2.1 $11,100
Delaware $2.0 $9,000
Montgomery $3.3 $10,300
Philadelphia $6.4 $9,800
Total $16.3 $10,000

Source: Econsult Corporation (2010)

 

3.4     Proximity to Open Space is a Selling Point

This finding is consistent with the notion that proximity to open space is a desirable feature of houses, and thus homebuyers are willing to pay a premium for that feature.  Indeed, brokers consistently tout proximity to open space in describing houses they are trying to sell, a sure sign that this characteristic is something that is understood to be worth paying more for.

Importantly, this added value is not necessarily dependent on whether a particular homeowner actually uses or even personally values the open space.   To be sure, what causes many homebuyers to select a house near open space (and to be willing to pay more for such a house) is the convenience of enjoying it or the beauty of looking into it.  However, homebuyers may still be willing to pay more for such a house even if they do not intend to themselves enjoy the proximity to open space, if they understand that this characteristic is valued in the marketplace and that therefore it improves the resale value of houses with that characteristic.  Indeed, one of the findings of the GSA/DVRPC report was that houses near open space retained their value better than other houses, during the recent housing downturn.

3.5     The Property Value Impact of Open Space

The ability to directly analyze the property value impact of the open space near Ardrossan Estate is constrained by a relative lack of house sales transactions from which to infer relationships between house value and house characteristics.   A conservative estimate of the property value of open space near Ardrossan can be inferred in part from a number of regional and local findings generated in the GSA/DVPRC report:[2]

1. The estimated aggregate property value impact of protected open space in Delaware County is about $2 billion, or about $9,000 for each of the 222,000 households in Delaware County.  It can be much more for households near particularly attractive types of protected open space such as outdoor recreational amenities; for example, proximity to the Radnor Trail was estimated to confer an almost $70,000 property value increase on houses located within a quarter-mile.  This is a significant amount of additional household wealth for individual homeowners and property tax base for municipalities and school districts.

2. Property value impact is attenuated for houses further away from open space.  In the four suburban counties in the Philadelphia region, being immediately next to protected open space was worth an additional $10,000 per house, diminishing to $5,000 per house for houses located a half-mile away.

3. Proximity to open space meant more in more urbanized contexts than in less urbanized contexts, since open space is scarcer in more urbanized contexts.  Whereas proximity to open space meant a 14.4 percent increase in property values in core cities and a 6.7 percent increase in inner-ring suburbs, it meant a 1.1 percent increase in outer-ring suburbs and a 0.7 percent increase in rural areas.

4. Property value impact is higher when there are larger quantities of open space.  In Delaware county increasing open space from one acre to five hundred acres yields an additional 0.8 percent in homes a quarter mile from the protected open space.

House sale prices at different distances from the open space near Ardrossan Estate indicate that proximity to this open space matters, potentially much more than what is suggested by the above regional and local findings.  Houses located within one mile of the open space near Ardrossan Estate sold for about $200,000 more than houses located between one and two miles away.[3]

[2] Economy League of Greater Philadelphia; Econsult Corporation; Keystone Conservation Trust, “The Economic Value of Protected Open Space in Southeastern Pennsylvania.” Produced for GreenSpace Alliance and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, November 16, 2010.

[3] Houses located within a half-mile of the open space near Ardrossan Estate sold for even more, but this finding is less conclusive because of the relative lack of transactions (about 10 per year within a half-mile, vs. about 50 per year within a mile).

 

3.6     Impact for Homeowners and for Radnor Township

There are about 1,900 households located within a mile of the open space near Ardrossan Estate.  They have an average house value of about $720,000, for an aggregate house value of about $1.3 billion (see Table 3.2).

 Table 3.2 – Aggregate Property Value of Houses Located within a Mile of the Open Space near Ardrossan Estate[a1]

 

Distance to Open Space 1 Mile
# Households 1,866
Average House Value $716,979
Aggregate House Value $1.34 Billion

Source: Econsult Solutions, Inc. (2013), ESRI (2013)

 It is assumed that this proximity to open space confers a property value impact of about 1 percent of house value, or about $7,200.  This assumption was made so as to be consistent with and conservatively low compared to the regional and local findings generated in the GSA/DVRPC report.  If this assumption is correct, this yields an aggregate property value impact of about $4 million more than if the open space were replaced with something that conferred neither a positive nor a negative impact on property values (see Table 3.3).

Table 3.3 – Estimated Aggregate Property Value Impact within 1 Mile Proximity to the Open Space near Ardrossan Estate

 

Aggregate House Value Property Value Impact Aggregate Property Value Impact
$1.34 Billion 1% $13.4 Million

Source: Econsult Solutions, Inc. (2013),Econsult Corporation (2010)

 If a reassessment were to occur, the positive property value impact generated by the open space near Ardrossan Estate could produce about $300,000 per year in property taxes for Delaware County, Radnor Township and the Radnor School District.  Said another way, if the open space were replaced with something that conferred neither a positive nor a negative impact on property values, and if property assessments adjusted to reflect the expected decline in property values, then Delaware County, Radnor Township and the Radnor School District would receive about $300,000 less per year in property tax revenues (see Table 3.4).


Table 3.4 – Estimated Aggregate Property Tax Revenue Impact within 1 Mile Proximity to the Open Space near Ardrossan Estate

 

County Township District Total
Property Value Impact ($M) $13.4 $13.4 $13.4 $13.4
Equalization Ratio[4] 74% 74% 74% 74%
Assessed Value Impact ($M) $9.9 $9.9 $9.9 $9.9
Property Tax Rate (per $1,000)[5] 3.75 5.45 21.82 31.03
Property Tax Impact ($000) $37 $54 $216 $307

Source: Econsult Solutions, Inc. (2013), Pennsylvania State Tax Equalization Board (2013), Radnor Township (2013)

3.7     Ramifications

It is well-established that protected open space is an amenity that homeowners are willing to pay a premium to be near.  This premium is statistically proven and results in greater household wealth for individual homeowners and increased property tax revenues for municipalities and school districts.  And, it appears that this premium is growing over time, due to an increased appreciation for the many benefits that come from proximity to open space.

This section has endeavored to explain and quantify the property value impact generated by the open space near Ardrossan Estate.  It has done so by looking solely at properties located within one mile of this open space.  However, it is likely that other properties that are relatively close but not located within one mile are also positively affected by the existence of this open space.  One can even make the argument that all properties within the Township are positively affected by the existence of this open space, as it is a cherished resource and iconic characteristic for the Township as a whole.  As the estimates in this section included only the impact on properties located within one mile of this open space, they may be considered low-end estimates of the actual property value impact generated by the open space near Ardrossan Estate.

4.0      OTHER POSITIVE ECONOMIC IMPACTS

4.1     Overview

The property value impact of the open space near Ardrossan Estate is its most important and most directly measurable economic benefit.  However, it is not necessarily its only major economic benefit.  As explored at a region-wide level in the GSA/DVRPC report, protected open space also renders ecological services, generates direct use benefits and health care cost reductions, and represents commercial activity that produces jobs and tax revenues.  These economic impact categories are discussed in turn in this section.


4.2     Ecological Services Rendered

In addition to being an amenity people like being near and recreating on, open space itself performs many valuable ecological services.  There is a growing body of literature that attempts to assign a dollar value to these services, whether through market equivalents, “all-in” estimates that also account for negative externalities, or “willingness to pay” surveys.

This literature was used to arrive at an estimated annual amount of ecological services rendered by protected open space in the Philadelphia region of about $132 million (see Table 4.1).  By using per-acre averages for Delaware County and applying them to the approx. 71 acres of the open space near Ardrossan Estate, it can be estimated that the ecological services rendered by this open space is about $60,000 per year (see Table 4.2). Included in these ecological services are maintained/improved water quality, flood mitigation, air pollution control, carbon sequestration, and wildlife habitat preservation.

Table 4.1 – Estimated Annual Economic Value of Ecological Services Rendered by Protected Open Space in the Philadelphia Region

 

County Value of Ecological Services Rendered ($M)
Bucks $43.4
Chester $50.0
Delaware $12.2
Montgomery $16.4
Philadelphia $10.5
Total $132.5

Source: Econsult Corporation (2010)

Table 4.2 – Estimated Annual Economic Value of Ecological Services Rendered by the Open Space near Ardrossan Estate

 

Ecological Service Category Delaware County ($M) Per Acre ($000) Ardrossan ($000)
Water Supply / Water Quality $5.7 $0.4 $30
Flood Mitigation $4.2 $0.3 $22
Air Pollution / Carbon Sequestration $1.6 $0.1 $8
Miscellaneous $0.7 $0.1 $4
Total $12.2 $0.9 $63

 Source: Econsult Solutions, Inc. (2013), Econsult Corporation (2010)

The benefits of water supply protection, improved water quality, and flood mitigation are very important to municipal water authorities. The presence of protected open spaces supplies natural water filtration to the water supply and flood control. Large areas of protected open space reduce the need to import potable water and ease pressure on sewer infrastructure that is costly to replace.

The economic benefit derived from protected open space may increase over time, if various regulatory and environmental trends continue.  For example, as federal and state environmental agencies place more pressure on municipalities regarding stormwater management, open space becomes doubly important: the existence of pervious surface lessens various regulatory burdens that are based on the amount of impervious surface located within a jurisdiction (providing more flexibility in regards to the amount and location of new development), and its natural ability to regulate and filter stormwater lightens the burden on existing development.


4.3     Direct Use Benefits and Health Care Cost Reductions

The existence of open space affords the opportunity for its use in a variety of recreational activities, such as walking, picnicking, and bird watching.  Although – indeed, because – users need not pay to partake of these activities, they receive value from the open space and from the activities they partake of within it.  Through “willingness to pay” surveys, conducted most prominently by the US Army Corps of Engineers, a dollar value can be assigned to various recreational uses, which when multiplied by the aggregate number for those uses can yield a sum total of direct use benefit.

Based on this methodological approach, it was estimated that the protected open space in the Philadelphia region confers an aggregate $577 million in direct use benefits per year, or about $400 per household (see Table 4.3).  By using per-acre averages for Delaware County and applying them to the approx. 71 acres of the open space near Ardrossan Estate, it can be estimated that the direct use benefit from this open space is about $400,000 per year (see Table 4.4).  This number is meant to reflect not only casual and informal use of this open space but also formal and event-based uses such as the Penn Medicine at Radnor Run and Radnor Conservancy’s Race for Open Space.


Table 4.3 – Estimated Annual Direct Use Benefit from Protected Open Space in the Philadelphia Region

 

County Direct Use Benefit (M)
Bucks $89.2
Chester $68.6
Delaware $80.6
Montgomery $117.5
Philadelphia $221.1
Total $577.0

Source: Econsult Corporation (2010)

 

 Table 4.4 – Estimated Annual Direct Use Benefit from the Open Space near Ardrossan Estate

 

Direct Use Benefit in Delaware County Per Acre Ardrossan
$80.6 Million $6,300 $420,000

 Source: Econsult Solutions, Inc. (2013), Econsult Corporation (2010)

 Somewhat but not totally related to the existence of direct use benefits is the existence of health care cost reductions.  Open space, to the extent that it makes available an outdoor amenity that facilitates active recreation, can claim some credit for the positive health outcomes and attendant decreases in health care costs that may result.  In fact, there is a growing body of literature that makes, through primary and secondary research, a strong connection between access to recreational amenities and increased exercise rates, positive health outcomes, and lower health care costs.[6]

This body of literature was used to estimate an aggregate annual health care cost reduction associated with protected open space in the Philadelphia region.  Between direct and indirect medical cost savings, direct and indirect workers’ compensation costs, and lost productivity avoided, it was estimated that protected open space in the Philadelphia region results in about $1.3 billion per year in health care cost reductions (see Table 4.5).[7]  By using per-acre averages for Delaware County and applying them to the approx. 71 acres of the open space near Ardrossan Estate, it can be estimated that the health care cost reduction from this open space is about $1 million per year (see Table 4.4).

Table 4.5 – Estimated Annual Health Care Cost Savings from Protected Open Space in the Philadelphia Region

 

County Health Care Cost Savings (M)
Bucks $229
Chester $176
Delaware $193
Montgomery $287
Philadelphia $139
Total $1,293

Source: Econsult Corporation (2010)

[6] Some, but not all, of this health care cost reduction is already accounted for in the direct use benefits number, since part of what people are valuing when they active recreate is the positive health care outcomes they will enjoy as a result of them.

[7] Health care cost reduction categories are as follows:

  1. Direct medical savings: reduced costs in the same year in which the exercise takes place.
  2. Indirect medical savings: reduced costs in future years as a result of overall health improvements leading to fewer long-term chronic issues.
  3. Direct and indirect workers’ compensation costs: reduced workers’ compensation filings, and therefore reduced administrative costs associated with processing them.
  4. Lost productivity avoided: reduced absenteeism (days away from work) and “presenteeism” (days at work but not working at full capacity because of illness).

  Table 4.6 – Estimated Annual Health Care Cost Savings from the Open Space near Ardrossan Estate

 

Health Care Cost Savings in Delaware County Per Acre Ardrossan
$193 Million $15,000 $1 Million

 Source: Econsult Solutions, Inc. (2013), Econsult Corporation (2010)

 

4.4     Jobs and Tax Revenues

While representing a less intensive use of land, protected open space does generate some commercial activity, resulting in economic output, jobs, and tax revenues.  For example, some agricultural and related establishments are located on protected open space; these establishments produce things and employ people, growing various local and state tax bases.  Additionally, some open space draws in tourists, whose spending represents an importation of funds into an area to support local jobs and create local tax revenues.

 In the GSA/DVRPC report, it was estimated that expenditures associated with maintenance of public parks, operations of agricultural and other establishments, and tourism activity drawn into the area combined to produce an aggregate $566 million in economic impact, supporting about 7,000 jobs and generating about $30 million in local and state taxes (see Table 4.7).  By using per-acre averages for Delaware County and applying them to the approx. 71 acres of the open space near Ardrossan Estate, it can be estimated that the economic impact from this open space is about $220,000 per year (see Table 4.8).


Table 4.7 – Estimated Annual Direct Use Benefit from Protected Open Space in the Philadelphia Region

 

County Expenditure Impact ($M) Employment Impact (Jobs) Local and State Tax Revenue Impact ($M)
Bucks $75.5 990 $3.3
Chester $225.7 3,220 $10.7
Delaware $42.2 520 $1.9
Montgomery $91.7 1,120 $4.0
Philadelphia $131.1 1,050 $10.3
Total $566.4 6,910 $30.2

Source: Econsult Corporation (2010)

Table 4.8 – Estimated Annual Direct Use Benefit from the Open Space near Ardrossan Estate

 

  Delaware County Per Acre Ardrossan
Expenditure Impact $42.2 Million $3,300 $220,000
Employment Impact (Jobs) 520 0.04 3
Local and State Tax Revenue Impact $1.9 Million $150 $10,000

 Source: Econsult Solutions, Inc. (2013), Econsult Corporation (2010)


4.5     Caveat

The estimates contained in this section assume that the economic benefits of protected open space are linear, which is to say that if 100 units of open space generate 100 units of benefit, then each unit of open space generates one unit of benefit.  In reality, per-acre estimates of county-wide and region-wide economic benefits may be less than or greater than per-acre economic benefits at a smaller and more localized level.

For example, the amount of ecological services rendered by a larger area of open space may be, on a per-acre basis, less than or greater than the amount of ecological services rendered by a smaller area of open space, based on its contents and configuration.  Or, the addition or subtraction of a smaller area of open space could have little or no effect on overall recreational activity levels, or alternatively it could have an outsized effect on overall recreational activity levels, depending on what kind of open space is being added or subtracted and what kind of open space is left to recreate on.

The purpose of this section is not to provide a precise answer to the question of what economic benefits, besides property value impacts, are generated by the open space near Ardrossan Estate.  Rather, it is to identify what those economic benefits might be, and to offer an order-of-magnitude quantification of those benefits, around which a reasonable discussion can form regarding whether the open space near Ardrossan Estate is believed to provide more than or less than the typical are of open space of its size.

5.0      NEXT STEPS

Decisions about land, finances, and amenities should not be decided solely in narrow “return on investment” terms.  Nor should they be devoid of hard numeric considerations.  In offering these thoughts and estimates on the economic benefits associated with preserving rather than developing the open space near Ardrossan Estate, it is hoped that a fairer and more informed discussion will ensue as to what should be done and what process should be undertaken to arrive at that outcome.

Specifically, in weighing the preservation or development of the open space near Ardrossan Estate, there should be room to express the financial gains from development: upfront construction opportunities, ongoing economic activity, an increase in local property tax bases.  And, there should also be room to express the aesthetic and emotional reasons behind preservation of this beloved and well-used piece of land within Radnor Township.

Three other action steps should be entertained as part of this important decision-making process:

1. First, this report should be circulated, scrutinized, and elaborated on.  Participants should endeavor to better understand the categories of impacts contained within this report, determine whether they find the estimates credible, and decide what weight they warrant in the overall discussion.

2. Second, there should be some consideration of the overall fiscal impacts of various competing uses of the open space near Ardrossan Estate.  For example, proposed development programs can and should be evaluated, not only in terms of their potential benefits to Radnor Township (jobs created, tax revenues generated) but also of their potential costs (increased municipal services required).

3. Third, all of this information should be made publicly available, so that any interested participants can openly weigh the various merits of competing proposals.  It is understood that different people will value different kinds of benefit differently, and so there will be a range of conclusions drawn from the presentation of all of these data points.  The goal here, though, is less about consensus and more about a fair airing of all of the relevant pros and cons of competing proposals.

It is understood that reasonable people will disagree about what should be done going forward, even if provided with the same base of information.  The aim behind this report is to ensure that those interested in participating in the process regarding the future use of the open space near Ardrossan Estate are sufficiently informed about a category of impacts that are not often well known in numeric terms, which are the economic benefits associated with preserving rather than developing open space.