Valerie Russ of the Daily News has been tracking the efforts of Fox Chase Cancer Center to expand into Burholme Park. [Click here to read more on the issue.] Russ filled in PhillyClout about today's court ruling:
Within an hour after a Philadelphia judge said the city could not give part of Burholme Park to the Fox Chase Cancer Center for its $1 billion expansion plan, the cancer center announced it would appeal the decision. In a 61-page decision handed down this morning, Judge John W. Herron said that public parks are protected by a common law rule of law, known as the public trust doctrine, that has been part of Pennsylvania law since the early 1900s.
That public trust doctrine “protects every square foot” of the land Robert Waln Ryerss donated to the city to be used as Burholme Park, the decision said. “Simply stated, 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..."
The cancer center wanted an 80-year lease to expand over a 20-year period by constructing “as many as 18 large buildings between 4 and 9 stories high through the very center of the lush park, uprooting old growth trees, destroying vital recreational areas and irrevocably altering the unique character of this singularly beautiful park land and open space,” Herron wrote.
Tim Spreitzer, a spokesman for the cancer center, said: “We certainly at Fox Chase are committed to continuing to serve as one of the nation’s outstanding comprehensive centers and we believe that it is in the best interest of all of our current and future cancer patients to pursue all reasonable option for expansion. We are certainly disappointed in the courts decision today and we plan to appeal. We have argued and will continue to argue that this expansion will create thousands of both temporary and permanent jobs, expand Philadelphia’s tax base and keep Fox Chase at the forefront of cancer research and treatment.”
The judge’s decision noted that in a will dated June 25, 1895, Robert W. Ryerss gave the city of Philadelphia “all that part of my Farm near Fox Chase with my Country seat called Burholme in the Thirty-fifth Ward to be used as a Public park, the same to be called ‘Burholme Park’ ” upon the death of his wife Mary.