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Marple Township commissioners discuss future of Don Guanella property, hear concerns from residents

Heated meeting held for property of former Don Guanella School in Broomall, Delaware County
Heated meeting held for property of former Don Guanella School in Broomall, Delaware County 02:41

MARPLE TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CBS) — It's a saga now years in the making. The buildings on the former Don Guanella School property – mostly located off Sproul Road – were once used as residential facilities for children with special needs and later for adults. The institution closed in 2015. 

In 2021, the county bought the property, citing eminent domain. At Monday night's Marple Township commissioners meeting, the original plan for the property was laid out. 

"The county specifically referred over and over again its intention to acquire the property for public purposes, citing public parks, open spaces and recreation," board president Joe Rufo said.

Some people are worried about the county council's plan to potentially use the buildings on the site for administrative offices and for residential mental health facilities for adults with persistent mental illness. 

"I really think that there has to be some place for these folks, some type of place for them that would be appropriate, but not in this property," Joy Schwartz said.

Some residents who spoke to CBS News Philadelphia said they are worried the buildings will be used to house immigrants, but the county issued a statement on its website last month disputing that. The statement reads, in part: "The county is not planning to convert the Don Guanella property into a facility to house immigrants. There is absolutely no truth to this rumor."

Monday's meeting was scheduled for two hours but lasted less than one when the commissioners, at the public's urging, voted early. 

"From the township's standpoint, the property has been rezoned to the open space district," township solicitor Adam Matlawski said.

The commissioners voted how most in attendance Monday night wanted, but now sights are set on the next Delaware County Council meeting, which is Wednesday at 6 p.m. 

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