UPPER PROVIDENCE — The geriatric facility in Upper Providence, which has been run by the county for the past 76 years, sold for $41 million on March 6 during a two hour-long recess at one of the commissioners’ bi-monthly meetings. The price of the facility was originally slated to be $39 but then the county sold the 70 acres across the street and bought it back for $2 million from Mid-Atlantic Health Care, LLC.
By buying back the land across the street from the facility, the county has been able to permanently protect the land as legally open space which means it cannot be built on. The 70 acres of land will continue to be used as a public park as it has been in the past.
Under current zoning laws, only 15 of the roughly 237 acres Mid-Atlantic now owns can be developed on but only with the express consent of the Upper Providence Township Supervisors.
“If any development ever happens there, Upper Providence is in 100 percent control of the process,” Montgomery County Solicitor Raymond McGarry said in an interview on Friday.
Residents of the area will also be able to use the unoccupied land surrounding Parkhouse as they have been in the past.
“For the first five years, at least, the land will remain available for public access in the same manner that is available for them today. During that first four and half years, before that time period expires, Mid-Atlantic is required to meet with representatives of the board of supervisors of Upper Providence as well as representatives from Montgomery County’s Lands Trust,” McGarry said.
Montgomery County’s Land Trust is an open space and land conservation advocate in Montgomery County that will work with both the township and the company to work out a permenant plan for the land use.
McGarry explained that prior to the sale, one of Mid-Atlantic’s issues with public land use was liability in the event that someone using the land suffered some type of injury.
“When we started dealing with (them) on that issue, we looked at the law on this. There’s a statute in Pennsylvania that says that if you allow people public access to your land for recreational purposes and you don’t charge a fee then you’re protected from liability. (Dr. Scott Rifkin) not being from Pennsylvania, he wasn’t aware of that at the time. So we made him and his lawyers aware of that law and comfortable that the liability issue was going to be a hindrance,” McGarry said.
The sale, which was originally slated to be finalized on Jan. 31, was slowed because of a due diligence process that led to an underground heating tank being excavated because of a potential leak. McGarry said there was also a water intrusion in one of the buildings that needed to be fixed to make sure it would not continue and cause mold.
“Because there are some hills that are behind the building, the way the water would flow through the landscape, it would come into the building and from the periods of time of that happening, significant amounts of water would get into the building, which would create some mold in the basement area,” McGarry said.
Once the problem was discovered, the county wanted to make confirm that the mold was not dangerous.
“It turned out it was not dangerous mold, but it still had to be remedied. The bigger issue was if you need to removed the mold but water keeps coming in, it’s just going to keep coming back.” he said.
Engineers determined the structure of the building was sound and had to develop a way to stop water from coming in.
Another part of the deal included what is called a transition services agreement. This part of the contract outlines what the county will be providing to Mid-Atlantic while they transition into their own technical services.
“The transition services agreement says that when somebody is buying a business that is connected with another business, in this case, Parkhouse is connected with the rest of the county, by the time closing happens, not everything is going to be separated. So we had to come up with a plan as to how we’re going to deal with that,” McGarry said.
He explained that for what is expected to be at most one year there will be services the county provides to Mid-Atlantic that Mid-Atlantic pays the county for. According to the Transition Services Agreement, as long as Mid-Atlantic is using the county’s IT services they will be paying $48,616.61 a month to the county until they are on their own system.
“Some of its infrastructure and some of it is services that we’re providing,” he said.
McGarry said that for a certain period of time Mid-Atlantic will be providing services to the county.
“The easiest example of that is the park across the street. We have some facilities on it that have electricity,” he said.
The electricity comes from the same grid as the Parkhouse property. The electric costs are not yet separated.
“We actually installed a meter there to keep track of what we’re using,” McGarry said. However, the charges from the electricity still go to Mid-Atlantic.
“We’ll have to reimburse them until PECO goes out there and installs a separate line,” McGarry said.
All of the documents from the sale including the final contract can be seen on the solicitor’s website.