Judge to rule on Fox Chase expansion plan

Posted: October 30, 2008

Fox Chase Cancer Center's plan to expand into neighboring Burholme Park is now in the hands of Judge John W. Herron of Philadelphia Orphans Court.

Herron heard final arguments yesterday from lawyers representing neighbors who oppose leasing part of the park to the hospital, as well as from lawyers for Fox Chase and the city, which supports the deal.

He asked both sides tough questions about their legal positions.

When asked when he would rule on the controversial case, Herron smiled and said: "When I do, I do. I'll do my best."

Fox Chase says it needs to grow because of rising demand for cancer care and research. It would build on 19 of the park's 69 acres, but it has said it will look elsewhere if the city says no. It is openly considering a second campus in Delaware.

Its attorneys say the expansion would provide tax revenue, jobs and good medical care for the city.

Some of the hospital's neighbors say that building on parkland would violate the will of Robert W. Ryerss, who bequeathed the land to the city in 1895. They also say the city did not fully consider the effect of losing parkland on the neighborhood or try hard enough to find other land for Fox Chase.

The legal questions at issue are whether the city can approve a different use for the land and, if so, whether it followed proper procedure.

Herron said he visited the park for the first time during Tuesday's rainy weather. "To say the least, the park is magnificent," he said. He also drove around the neighborhood and looked at Fox Chase's grounds.

Contact staff writer Stacey Burling at 215-854-4944 or sburling@phillynews.com.

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