Charlton Op-Ed: Why Chaput should donate the Don Guanella tract

Why Chaput should donate the Don Guanella tract

To the Times:

The future of the archdiocese’s former Don Guanella property in Marple has been a source of concern for many in our community. A proposed agreement to sell the property to a developer has fallen through. The property’s future now rests solely in the hands of Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput.

As one of the last large open areas of natural beauty in our community, it’s imperative that we make every attempt to preserve the land for future generations and prevent the massive traffic delays that would arise from its development.

I have written to Archbishop Chaput requesting the archdiocese donate this land to the Natural Lands Trust so that it may be preserved permanently, consistent with church teachings and as called for by Pope Francis’ recent environmental encyclical “Laudato Si.”

The pope wrote, “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue — it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”

I respectfully request that as the leader of the Philadelphia archdiocese he consider the words of the Holy Father and be a protector of God’s handiwork by donating this land for preservation in perpetuity.

The Marple Township Planning Board and its commissioners got it right when they denied the Cardinal Crossing proposal. The archdiocese should have been listening.

I encourage the Save Marple Green Space organization, county, Marple and Springfield officials and my fellow residents concerned for the site’s future to join me in a grassroots campaign designed to persuade the archdiocese to take this property off the market and donate it to the Natural Lands Trust. It’s a historic opportunity for us to preserve for our kids and grandkids this land as open space for them to enjoy.

The archdiocese has indicated that this property needed to be sold in order to assist parishes because of the financial crisis that has arisen from the sex abuse scandal. A recent victory in the state Legislature will save the archdiocese tens of millions in compensation to victims.

State grants like the Growing Greener program and county-issued bonds are effective ways to preserve open space and I agree that they should be pursued. But in this situation there are many time ¬consuming hurdles and the goals may not be easily achievable. Right now the outcome of this property is the hands of the archdiocese and that’s where our first efforts should focus.

Additionally, as responsible leaders we should first look to other methods to preserve land before hitting up the taxpayer. Here, the solution is clear.

Taxpayers have long borne the hidden cost of Don Guanella property by virtue of its tax-exempt status. The tax exemption has cost millions of dollars in lost revenue for the township and the county.

Already-overburdened taxpayers should not have to take on more debt to obtain and preserve property they’ve been subsidizing for years.

The future of this property rests with the archbishop.

I ask you to join me in a grassroots campaign calling on the archdiocese not to sell this land for development and instead practice what it preaches by donating the land to the Natural Lands Trust. Together, we can be successful. Please read the full text of my letter and join us by signing our petition at CharltonForPA.com/OpenSpace.

Alex Charlton, Republican candidate for Pennsylvania House of Representatives 165th District, Springfield