Dan Clark of the Times Herald reports:
NORRISTOWN >> For $5, East Norriton purchased five parcels of land held in the county’s repository hoping to turn the empty lots into part of a trail that will eventually connect to trails in Plymouth Township and Norristown.
Montgomery County commissioners approved the sale to East Norriton at their meeting on Thursday.
“My office works very hard to be proactive and come up with a lot of ways for different levels of government to work together,” county Treasurer Jason Salus said. “To that end, several months ago we undertook an initiative whereby we notified all the surrounding property owners and school districts where parcels in the county property repository were located.”
Salus explained that repository properties are those that have gone unsold at tax sales.
“As part of that effort one of our notices went out to East Norriton Township notifying the local elected officials that there were a number of abandoned parcels, five, along the Sawmill Creek that were available for purchase,” Salus said.
Officials from East Norriton had expressed interest in the properties because they were in the process of obtaining other parcels of land for a pedestrian trail along the Sawmill Creek, Salus said.
The parcels of land are all in the flood plain and not big enough to develop on, he said.
“We’ve acquired about 20 of these properties along that stream already and we’re trying to join them all together and eventually build a trail that will connect to Norristown’s Sawmill Creek Trail that they’re in the planning process of with Montgomery County,” East Norriton Township Manager Donald Delamater said. “And in the other end connect to the Plymouth Township municipal complex trail. It would be a regional link that we’re hoping to achieve there.”
All of the land was given to residents as door prizes by movie theaters early in the 20th century. A previous article in The Reporter, a sister publication of The Times Herald, movie theaters would offer small plots of land as door prizes to encourage people to come to the movies.
However, the landowners often did not pay the taxes and did not do anything with the land. The land that ended up in the repository could not be sold at a tax sale.
“They gave these away as some kind of door prize, but then people had to pay property tax on them and it wasn’t exactly much of a gift,” commissioners’ Vice-Chairwoman Valerie Arkoosh said.
Commissioners’ Chairman Josh Shapiro commended Salus for finding a way to take the land off of the repository and for finding a good use for it.
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