Nick Micozzie announces purchase of 35 acre property on Springfield Road in Darby Borough
June 30. 2016 ceremony celebrating the purchase of a 35-acre property for open space use adjacent to Little Flower Manor in Darby Borough took place Thursday, June 30, 11 a.m., at the site on South Springfield Road. The ceremony highlights the $1.7 million sale of the property from the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer to the Natural Lands Trust, a non-profit land conservation organization, who is deeding the property over to Delaware County. (Check out the Delaware County Daily Times story here.)
The parcel, known as Darby Heights, is the site of Woodburne, a mansion designed in 1906 for the son of Col. Thomas Scott, former assistant Secretary of War under President Abraham Lincoln and president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The mansion was used as a nursing home by the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer, an order of Roman Catholic nuns based outside Pittsburgh, from 1958 until 2005 when the property was put up for sale.
Nick Micozzie has been working diligently with the Natural Lands Trust, state agencies and county and local officials to oppose development of the property and secure funding so the land could be purchased and maintained as open space. The property will serve as the southern trailhead of the Darby Creek Greenway, a walking trail system, and could one day include a play field and picnic area.
The parcel of land, which runs along South Springfield Road to Penn Pines Park and Darby Creek, almost became a shopping center.
In 2009, a developer came forward with an interest to buy the property and build a shopping center there. Darby Borough submitted an application for a $9 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant which Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell approved, $4.5 million for local development and an additional $4.5 million reimbursement if state guidelines were met for the project. The developer’s proposal would have included big box commercial buildings and other unwanted uses for the property.
In 2011, State Rep. Nick Micozzie hosted two town meetings at Aldan Elementary School to inform residents and to mobilize opposition against the proposed development. There was public outcry against the shopping center and a petition with hundreds of signatures protesting the development was started.
Micozzie promised his office would work to defeat the proposal and keep the property as open space. He presented the petition to Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett and urged the governor not to approve funding for the project. The governor agreed not to fund the grant application and the developer abandoned his plans for the property.
The next step was to convince the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer to sell the property to Delaware County and to find the funds to buy it.
Micozzie contacted Peter Williamson, vice president of Conservation Services with Natural Lands Trust to lend his expertise. The Natural Lands Trust agreed to conduct an $8,000 appraisal of the property and to partner with Nick Micozzie’s office to find available funding to buy the property.
Micozzie, Upper Darby Township Mayor Tom Micozzie and Delaware County Councilman Mario Civera visited the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer at their Mother House outside of Pittsburgh. Micozzie explained that his office and Delaware County Council were interested in keeping the property as open space and were committed to purchase the property. Months of discussions followed and, with approval from Rome, the nuns agreed to sell the county the property, appraised at $2.25 million, for a purchase price of $1.7 million. An Agreement of Sale was executed.
Paying for it
Micozzie’s office submitted a grant application to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to help fund the purchase. The DCNR approved funding for $1,175,000. With the assistance of the Natural Lands Trust, Nick’s office submitted another $250,000 grant application with the Commonwealth Finance Authority (CFA).
Following meetings with Nick Micozzie, the governor’s office, CFA staff and the state House and Senate leadership, the CFA approved $224,000 of the $250,000 requested to buy the property. State grants toward purchase of the property garnered through Nick’s office now totaled $1.4 million.
County steps in
Micozzie and Upper Darby Mayor Tom Micozzie met with Delaware County Council, seeking its help in acquiring the property. A request was made to the president of Delaware County Council, Tom McGarrigle; Councilmembers John McBlain, Mario Civera, Colleen P. Morrone and David White. County Council approved funding from Delaware Counties’ Marcellus Shale allocations for the remaining $300,000 to buy the property.
Council also approved any additional costs for an Agreement of Sale. (A thank you is in order to Delaware County Councilmen Mario Civera, John McBlain and Mayor Tom Micozzie for their involvement and leadership.)
Delaware County Council has been fulfilling the obligations laid out in the Agreement of Sale, including inspections of the property, an assessment of related environmental conditions, a review of the title, zoning requirements, contracts, leases, and surveys, etc. as well as copies of deeds, zoning documents, land and improvement surveys; current title insurance, environmental assessments and all construction plans in the seller’s possession. Delaware County also submitted and received a DCNR grant of $52,000 to create a development plan.
Delaware County Planning Commission approved subdivision plans for the site. Because part of the property is located in Upper Darby Township, Upper Darby approved the subdivision plans on Oct. 21, 2015. Delaware County Council also worked with Darby Borough officials to obtain borough council approval in February 2016 for the Little Flower property subdivision, clearing the way toward settlement.