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With cash on hand and apartments going up, town gets top AAA credit rating

"We want to attract development," says West Whiteland's top official

New stores and apartments are boosting tax collections, and have given Chester County's West Whiteland Township (pop. 20,000) a rare distinction: Yesterday Moody's Investor Service boosted its credit rating to AAA, a rare distinction shared (among Pennsylvania's 2,000-plus local govermnets) with only Tredyffrin, Whitpain, Upper and Lower Merion, and Lower Gwynned townships.

That means East Whiteland should be able to sell its pending $8.86 million in General Obligations bonds at rock-bottom interest rates when they go to market this week.

Steve Soles, West Whiteland's elected Board of Supervisors chairman (he is lawyer for hedge fund managers Rich and Kevin Gates' TFS Capital as his day job), credits redevelopment and new construction around the township's Exton and Whitford Septa stations and the US 30 (Business) and Pa. 100 corridors that cross at Exton Mall for the higher rating.

"We didn't used to be known as developer-friendly," Soles told me. "The current board has changed that. We want to attract development. We are a retail-based township," at a time when online and mobile retailing threatens traditional store chains. " We have to stay ahead of the curve."

The township's presentation to Moody's lists more than 1,000 new apartments, including 410 units approved for Main Street Apartments, 276 for Parkview at Oaklands (where residences are replacing office/industrial zoned space), 240 at Marquis at Exton; plus 108 "new carriage homes" (rowhouses) at Glenloch (where the township fought to keep out a trailer park), 86 more at Waterloo Gardens; and several smaller developments.

In their brief report, Moody's analysts Douglas Goldmacher and Jessica Raab noted West Whiteland's fund balance -- the cash on hand in its budget -- is unusually large for a township that is merely comfortably-affluent, not super-rich. The "strong tax base is expected to grow," they added, and there's enough cash that Soles' administration can afford to spend it on capital projects without a lot of new borrowing.