Township finalizes purchase of St. Anthony in the Hills
● By Richard Gaw
After a delay in dotting the I's and crossing the T's on an acquisition that was approved in February, the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors approved funding for the township's purchase of the 137.5-acre St. Anthony in the Hills property, for the price of $1.5 million.
St. Anthony in the Hills is currently owned by St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Wilmington.
The board voted at its Dec. 17 meeting that 106.4 acres of the property – designated as Highest Protection and Standard Protection areas – will be funded through the township's Open Space Fund, in the amount of $1,163,164. Because the Open Space Fund is expected to receive $225,000 from Chester County that will be applied to the purchase, the actual allocation from the Open Space Fund will be $938,164.
The remaining 30.6 acres – designated as a Minimal Protection Area – will be paid for by the township's General Fund, in the amount of $336,836.
The acreage is located in the area just southwest of the intersection of Gap-Newport Pike (Route 41) and Limestone Road (Route 7), just north of Somerset Lake, and sits on the headwaters of the Broad Run Creek. It was owned and operated by the church as a sanctuary for inner-city Wilmington children, as a lasting legacy to the vision of Father Roberto Balducelli, who served as the founder and caretaker of the facility until his death at the age of 99 on Aug. 9, 2013.
The first seeds of the collaboration between the township and the parish dated back to 2008, when Father Balducelli approached the township with the idea of entering into a conservation agreement. Following a public hearing in Dec. 2015, the board voted unanimously to enter the township into a conservation easement in cooperation with the parish. That agreement was later rejected by the parish, which led to the township's negotiation with the parish to purchase the property.
At its Feb. 20, 2018 meeting, the supervisors approved the township's acquisition of St. Anthony in the Hills, contingent upon the details that were expected to be ironed out during a 90-day agreement of sale. At the board's authorization, township manager Tony Scheivert was to sign a letter of intent to execute the agreement between the township and the parish.
On March 19, 2018, the board voted 5-0 to pass a resolution that committed the township to use money from its' open space fund to acquire the property, but although the township had a letter of intent on file with St. Anthony of Padua, there was still no agreement of sale.
On June 18, 2018 the board voted to tack an additional 30 days on to the transaction period for the purchase of the property, in order to provide time to conduct additional environmental testing on the property.
Board chairman Randy Geouque said that the township will likely form a committee to determine a plan for public access and use for the property.
“The public will not have access to it immediately, because there are some safety concerns that need to be addressed before we can let anyone on the property,” he said. “However, I think we're all excited. It's going to be a good benefit at some point, for all of the residents.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.