Public Trust Doctrine Preserves Park

Mary Tracy, SCRUB release

In an opinion released today, Ryerss MuseumPhiladelphia Orphans’ Court Judge John W. Herron  has DENIED the City’s request to lease 19.4 acres of dedicated parkland to Fox Chase Cancer Center.

The Judge applied the public trust doctrine as the standard of review in deciding this case. The public trust doctrine, enshrined in Pennsylvania since the early 1900’s, is the rule of law requiring that the City “maintain Burholme Park as a park so long as it remains an active park.”

Judge Herron wrote that there was no evidence presented during the seven days of testimony that Burholme Park has ceased to fulfill its purpose as a vibrant public park.

Fox Chase Cancer Center had proposed that as many as 18 buildings could be built through the very center of the lush park with heights up to nine stories. Judge Herron wrote that the development plan, “would alter, change and diminish Burholme Park forever” and that “the scope and the proposed construction is inconsistent with park purposes.”

In closing, Judge Herron wrote,

“so long as a community or neighborhood actively uses dedicated park land, the City is required to hold such land in trust for their use, is legally stopped from divesting such land and is required to maintain these open spaces as public parks.”

Mary Tracy, executive director of SCRUB said, “this is a great day for the citizens of Philadelphia. This ruling affirms for future generations of Philadelphians that parks belong to the public and are not the city’s to sell, lease, or give away!”

SCRUB’s LEGAL TEAM
Special thanks to Attorney Samuel C. Stretton for litigating this case and to Attorney Hal Schirmer and legal intern Stacey Graham for legal research and technical assistance. For more information and the complete opinion, visit SCRUB’s website .

2008-12-10 06:58:17

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