The Pennsylvania General Assembly is considering a bill which would permit governmental entities to sell its public parks. The concern expressed by many – including newspaper columnists and groups such as the League of Women Voters – is that government officials will improperly use this as a “quick fix” to solve fiscal problems. For example, the Patriot News Editorial Board recently wrote, “The bill has the potential to decimate local parks . . . across the state. Is this really what our state lawmakers want? Quick sales of parks and public lands to plug short-term budget holes or pander to local developers?”
These critics believe that the current procedure should not be changed. The Donated and Dedicated Property Act currently requires a municipality to request the county Orphans Court for permission to sell the property. The League of Women Voters stated in a memo to lawmakers: “What is the rationale to amend this act that appears to have worked for more than a half-century?” The bill does not apply to properties acquired by eminent domain.
The bill passed unanimously in the PA House in June. It will be interesting to see whether the public scrutiny will impact its future.