Hearing set for Meadow Brook objections to Phoenixville School District eminent domain plan

PHOENIXVILLE — A hearing on the objections filed by Meadow Brook Golf Club against the eminent domain acquisition planned by Phoenixville Area School District is scheduled for Friday.

Chester County Common Pleas Court Judge Jacqueline Carroll Cody is assigned to the case and will hear from both sides in Courtroom 7 of the Chester County Courthouse in West Chester at 1:30 p.m.

Meadow Brook’s owners filed preliminary objections to the acquisition Dec. 14, around the time the property was scheduled to legally change hands.

In a meeting Nov. 14, under an agenda item which read “recommendation and request for approval of land acquisition,” the board voted 7-2 to acquire Meadow Brook Golf Club’s property for a proposed early learning center/elementary school which would replace the district’s current Kindergarten Center and East Pikeland Elementary School.

“I’m basically opposed to eminent domain. I don’t think it’s right for a government agency to take one’s home or business,” said school board member Betsy Ruch just before the Nov. 14 vote. “That being said, since Meadow Brook is a willing seller, had approached us and since their firm asking price is more than twice what it is worth, and since we have a responsibility to the taxpayer to get their money’s worth, I think we’ll have to go to eminent domain. I think we’ve reached the end of our rope.”

Board members Josh Gould and Dan Cushing were the “no” votes.

Meadow Brook Superintendent Owner Bruce Campbell said the characterization that the owners are “willing sellers” is not accurate but “everything is for sale at a price.”

Documents acquired through a Right to Know request showed that Meadow Brook’s asking price was $8 million. The school district’s last offer was $5 million.

Projections put forth by the district’s administration show that significant growth is expected in the elementary school levels with several schools already over-capacity and utilizing temporary modular classrooms. The most recent projections, which painted a more dire picture than ones even a year ago, showed that the total number of available elementary school seats across the district will be exceeded by the next school year.

As such, the district plans to construct a building combining an early learning center — which will house all of the district’s kindergartners and first-graders, if not also second-graders — with a new elementary school replacing East Pikeland.

After the Nov. 14 vote, opposition to the acquisition was voiced in several meetings paired with protests held in the weeks following.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.