Shapiro defends Parkhouse sale
NORRISTOWN — Montgomery County commissioners’ Chairman Josh Shapiro met with The Times Herald editors Tuesday to discuss developments in the sale of the Parkhouse in Upper Providence.
Shapiro clarified his position regarding community opposition to the sale and repeated that Mid-Atlantic Health Care LLC, the compa- ny that signed the purchasing agreement with the county, has no plans to develop the land surrounding the geriatric care facility.
Taxpayers’ concerns with the use of the publicly accessible land are at the heart of the controversy surrounding the Parkhouse sale.
Shapiro said the opposition’s use of the term “open space” to describe the 210acre parcel of land is wrong. The land is simply undeveloped, he said. “When you use the term open space, it is a legal terminology where the county and county taxpayers have deemed the land open space,” Shapiro said.
Given that the land is undeveloped and not legally designated open space, according to Shapiro, the power to insure the land is not developed in the future lies in Upper Providence Township.
“All the ingredients are there to continue to protect the land,” Shapiro said. “Anyone in Upper Providence who wants to protect the land has the ability to participate in that dialogue.”
Shapiro listed three ways Upper Providence Township could help to protect all of its undeveloped land, including current parkland like the parcels across the street from Parkhouse.
The township could use zoning currently in place, which, he said, could restrict developable Parkhouse land to 10 percent. It could also subdivide the parkland across the street in order to deem it open space, or work with Mid-Atlantic CEO Scott Rifkin to continue public access to the land, he said.
“Mid-Atlantic has no plans to develop that land and wants to continue to allow it to be used for public purposes,” Shapiro said.
The sale still lacks a firm date. The initially proposed sale date was Jan. 31, but closing has been postponed so that environmental and building studies can be completed.
According to Shapiro, such facilities inspections are required during any type of property sale.
“When you buy a house both the buyer and the seller do inspections and then negotiate a contract,” he said.
If Mid-Atlantic does an inspection and finds an issue with the property, it is the commissioners’ job to have engineers review the cost of the findings so they can negotiate the best deal for the community, he added.
Shapiro said he did not have any knowledge of why an employee of Parkhouse was recently subpoenaed in connection with the facility. The facilities inspections and not the subpoena were responsible for the delay, he said.
“I don’t think it will take very much longer, but we want to make sure we cross our T’s and dot our I’s,” Shapiro said.
The facilities inspections are the tail-end of the negotiating process that began in December, when the county signed the purchase agreement with Mid- Atlantic, Shapiro said. The county went ahead with the deal after issuing a request for information that allowed consultation with outside companies about the options for the government owned land, he said.
The consultants concluded the outright sale of Parkhouse was preferable to both alternative options, either keeping the entire parcel under county ownership or selling the facil- ity to a private company but keeping ownership of the surrounding land, he said.
Asked if there was a possibility the commissioners could put the land back onto the table for the county to continue ownership if the taxpayers demanded it, Shapiro indicated this would not happen because the facility is on the land and that was the deal agreed upon.
“It’s the best deal for the community, the employees and the taxpayers,” he said.
Montgomery County commissioners’ Chairman
Josh Shapiro speaks about the Parkhouse sale Tuesday at The Times Herald offic
es in Norristown.