Bill to Halt Eminent Domain on Preserved Open Space Sent to the Governor

HARRISBURG – Leg­is­la­tion spon­sored by Reps. War­ren Kampf (Montgomery/​Chester), Kate Harp­er (R-Mont­gomery) and Mar­cy Toe­pel (R-Mont­gomery) to enhance pro­tec­tions for pre­served land in the Com­mon­wealth has passed the Sen­ate and was sent to the gov­er­nor for his sig­na­ture. 
 
House Bill 2468 was intro­duced in response to efforts by the Low­er Meri­on School Dis­trict to use emi­nent domain to take land from the 42-acre Stoneleigh Gar­den and use it to con­struct a new mid­dle school. The land was donat­ed by the Haas fam­i­ly to the Nat­ur­al Lands Trust and des­ig­nat­ed to be pre­served as a pub­lic gar­den for­ev­er. It is cov­ered by a con­ser­va­tion ease­ment and recent­ly opened to the pub­lic.
 
We urge Gov. Tom Wolf to sign this bill as a way to save not only Stoneleigh Gar­den but oth­er prop­er­ties like it across the Com­mon­wealth that are intend­ed to be pre­served in per­pe­tu­ity with the pro­tec­tion of a con­ser­va­tion ease­ment,” the law­mak­ers said.
 
The leg­is­la­tion would amend the Emi­nent Domain Code to add a new sec­tion that would require cer­tain gov­ern­ment agen­cies, includ­ing school dis­tricts and town­ships, to obtain Orphans’ Court approval before using emi­nent domain to take per­ma­nent­ly pre­served land. 
 
The pro­ce­dure is sim­i­lar to that found in the Agri­cul­tur­al Area Secu­ri­ty Law, which requires addi­tion­al scruti­ny before con­dem­na­tion of agri­cul­tur­al lands. The Orphans’ Court is giv­en author­i­ty in the Donat­ed and Ded­i­cat­ed Prop­er­ty Act over cer­tain trans­ac­tions relat­ed to pub­licly owned lands held for pub­lic uses.
 
It passed the Sen­ate by a bipar­ti­san major­i­ty of 38 – 11 on Fri­day after­noon and was giv­en final approval by the House Fri­day evening by a vote of 177 – 15.
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