Lower Frederick Faces Real Mystery About Real Estate

A portion of Lower Frederick parcels (at top) is shown on a Montgomery County property map, with an apparently unowned slice of land shown in dark blue, surrounded by neighboring highways

LOWER FREDERICK PA – A real mystery about a sliver of Lower Frederick real estate, which so far seems to lack an owner, has surprised the township solicitor and prompted its Board of Supervisors to wonder if it wants to attempt claiming the property.

Solicitor Peter Nelson told board members Tuesday (Feb. 22, 2022), during their workshop meeting, about four hours of research he’s conducted at their request into a somewhat rectangular parcel of land that runs parallel to the north side of Swamp Creek.

Nelson did not give the parcel’s measurements or specific location. From drawings displayed to supervisors, however, it appears to be roughly located between Gerloff Road on the west, Delphi Road on the east, and south of the Swamp Creek Rod and Gun Club.

After diving into Montgomery County property records to examine surrounding parcels and their deeds, and plotting the location of each within the vicinity, Nelson told supervisors he’s concluded the “doughnut” of a parcel is not owned by any individual or entity. If it wanted, he added, Lower Frederick might be able to apply to Pennsylvania under its Vacant and Unimproved Public Lands Act to be named as its owner.

But as with many things legal, Nelson observed, it’s not quite that simple.

A township application to seek ownership would likely involve a state investigation, a historical examination of title, and an applicable survey. Conceivably, Nelson said, its probe could date back to William Penn’s 1681 grant from King Charles II for the more than 45,000 square miles of land that later became Pennsylvania, or “Penn’s Woods.”

If state agrees the land is unowned, it “has first dibs” on the acquisition, Nelson reported. If the state passes on the opportunity, the township would have 30 days in which to buy it.

For how much? That depends, Nelson added; its market value would need to be determined by an appraisal. The good news may be that “there’s not a lot of development potential here,” Nelson said, which means the price might fall within a reasonable range.

However Lower Frederick, as the applicant, also would be on the hook for what Nelson suggested may amount to “several thousands” of dollars in costs for related research, the survey and appraisal, and deed preparation. The work could take a year to complete, he estimated.

Armed with that information, supervisors agreed with a suggestion from board Chair Marla Hexter to involve the township’s Open Space Committee in the considerations. That’s tentatively scheduled for discussion during the board’s general meeting on March 1 (Tuesday).

Map from Montgomery County property records with enhancements by The Posts