Cardinal Crossing debate heats up

The Battle of Cardinal Crossing moved to a new battlefield yesterday - County Council's weekly public meeting.

A group from Save Marple Greenspace appeared before Council to urge them to place a referendum on the November general election ballot on whether the county should float a bond to acquire the tract.

At stake is the grounds of what for decades was the home of the Don Guanella School, off Sproul Road in Marple. The 213-acre tract, including pristine woods behind Cardinal O'Hara High School, is one of the last remaining large open tracts in the densely populated central part of the county.

It is owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which had an agreement of sale with a developer who planned a town center-style mix of residential, retail and entertainment uses, including a new Wegmans supermarket. But Bruce Goodman could not get approval for his plans amid vehement community opposition to his plan.

Last week the archdiocese, after granting him one extension, cancelled their agreement of sale. But they plan to put the tract back on the market and are actively seeking a buyer.

County Council yesterday also indicated they plan to meet with representatives form the archdiocese next week.

The notion of County Council floating a bond comes a day after Alex Charlton, the Republican seeking to fill the state House 165th District seat being vacated by longtime Rep. Bill Adolph, suggested the archdiocese donate the Don Guanella site to a land trust or the county.

Not everyone at the meeting was in favor of a bond issue.

It's pretty simple really, and something the county has dealt with before.

The tax burden on such a move will be shared by everyone in the county, while the benefits of not developing the site won't necessarily do the same. For the most part, the key benefit here will be for those living closest to the site in Marple Township.

That was something that former Councilman Wally Nunn championed a couple of decades ago when he led a successful push to oppose a similar bond question to acquire open space.

Radnor Commission Luke Clark attended the meeting, and urged another the county to find another way to preserve the site, aside from a bond issue.

Likewise, Michael Burns, who grew up in Haverford and now lives in Glenolden and serves on the Interboro School Board, stressed his community can hardly afford another tax burden.

"It may not have an impact on you," he told Council, "but believe me, it will have a direct impact in my neighborhood."

Interboro School Board recently gave final approval to a budget that will once again hike taxes, while also cutting school district jobs.

He pointed out the fairly stark differences in the kind of tax burden differing millage rates have on Marple residents, as opposed to the much greater burden placed on taxpayers in his communities.

We'll see where County Council gets in their meetings with the archdiocese.

Here's one tip. Don't mention Communion for gays, lesbians or divorced couples.