House Approves Bill to Halt Eminent Domain on Preserved Open Space, Lawmakers Say
6/19/2018
HARRISBURG – Working to enhance protections for preserved land in the Commonwealth, Reps. Warren Kampf (R-Montgomery/Chester), Kate Harper (R-Montgomery) and Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery) today applauded House passage of their eminent domain reform legislation. The measure passed with strong bipartisan support, 179-18.

House Bill 2468 was introduced in response to recent 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 had been donated to the Natural Lands organization and is covered by a conservation easement. The property recently opened as a public garden.

“This is an important step forward in the fight to save not only Stoneleigh Garden but other properties like it across the Commonwealth that are intended to be preserved with the protection of a conservation easement,” Kampf said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

The bill would amend the Eminent Domain Code to add a new section requiring any government agency 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.

“The land at Stoneleigh was donated by the Haas family for the benefit of the public and the environment in perpetuity – that means forever – and Lower Merion School Board’s proposed taking of it is a shocking betrayal of the public interest,” Harper said. “Actions like this need the oversight of the Orphan’s Court to ensure they really are in the public’s best interest."

Toepel agreed. “Every effort should be made by Lower Merion School District, as well as other entities across the state, to avoid taking land that is supposed to be protected for the public good. The additional requirements that would have to be met under this bill would serve as a major deterrent to the practice. Eminent domain should be a last resort, a solution used as rarely and reluctantly as possible.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

Representative Kate Harper
61st District
Representative Warren Kampf
157th District
Representative Marcy Toepel
147th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Harper Media Contact: Harper’s Blue Bell Office / 610.277.3230
Kampf Media Contact: David Foster / 267.207.0207
Toepel Media Contact: Alison Evans / 717.260.6206

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