New law could derail midstate school district's eminent domain plans

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Jun 28, 2018 5:50 AM

Inside a courtroom at the Cumberland County courthouse. (Photo by WITF's Tim Lambert).

(Harrisburg) -- A new state law could derail plans for a new middle school in a fast-growing midstate district. It aims to make it harder for school districts to take preserved land by eminent domain. 

Earlier this year, the Cumberland Valley School District triggered the eminent domain process for a parcel of land known as the McCormick Farm.

The 108-acre tract the district wants for future development sits along Route 11 in Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County. 

The move sparked opposition from community members, county commissioners, and the nonprofit Natural Lands, which holds the conservation easement for the farm and is taking legal action against the district.

Natural Lands president Molly Morrison said the new law provides another obstacle to condemning preserved land for eminent domain but doesn't prevent the practice out-right.

"I am hopeful that with this new law in place that the school district will consider its other options more seriously," Morrison said. 

She added her organization believes the current condemnation should be dismissed, under the new legislation.

The law requires school districts to prove to its county's orphans' court that no reasonable alternative exists to taking the preserved land.

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