PHOENIXVILLE >> Officials in the Phoenixville Area School District are trying to finish buying up pieces of land needed to prepare for the new Early Learning Center and Elementary School construction project.
In a 7-1-1 decision Thursday, the school board approved the filing of eminent domain documents necessary to obtain stormwater and construction easements from Levin Management, located at the corner of Route 29 and Pothouse Road. Board President Daniel Cushing dissented and board member David Ziev was absent.
The administration also announced the Pickering Glen Homeowners Association approved an easement agreement, which the board then also approved. Board member Kevin Pattinson dissented.
In eminent domain, a government agency can obtain a property through the courts for public use while paying a fair market value for it. If the Levin property is acquired by the district, all four properties that required easements/land acquisitions will have successfully been negotiated. The other two properties, the Meadow Brook Golf Course and the Shanno property at 33 W. Pothouse Road, have already been purchased by the district.
The Levin land runs along the south side of Pothouse Road. The district needs it in order to move forward with its road-widening plans, to prepare for the new school, attorney Andrew Bellwoar explained.
“PennDOT is requiring that the district widen two roads,” he said. “That is Route 29 and then Pothouse. In order to accomplish that road widening, we need to perform construction within the PennDOT right of way. Our engineers tell us we also need a little strip of land to the south of that which is available to us, in order to accomplish the drainage necessary for the road.”
The walking trail to the south will remain virtually untouched. The land the district needs is between the walking trail and Potthouse Road. A swale, roughly 10-12 feet wide, will be created on the land next to the road to collect storm water drainage, he said.
When asked, Bellwoar said to think of an easement as “asking for permission.”
“It might come in the form of PECO, or Verizon, asking for an easement to place a line on the front of your property,” he explained. “The work will be done, but otherwise, you own the land.”
Board member Kenneth Butera asked why the decision needed to be made that night. Superintendent Alan Fegley explained that the project is on a strict time line in order to meet the permit deadlines.
While most of the board signed off on the process, they did so begrudgingly.
Board member Joshua Gould said he doesn’t support the use of eminent domain unless it causes the district’s mission to fail.
Board member Paul Slaninka agreed.
“None of us like eminent domain,” he said, calling it a “hard moral struggle, philosophically.” The decision to support the eminent domain use was to help the children in the district, which are the “greater good.”