A Fox Chase Cancer Center official yesterday contradicted Councilman Brian O'Neill's assertion that he'd worked out a $4.5 million community-benefits agreement with the center.
"We don't have a separate agreement with City Councilman Brian O'Neill," said Christine Wilson, a Fox Chase vice president for communications. "I know that he's said that, but our agreement is with the city and Fairmount Park Commission."
Wilson's comment sheds light on O'Neill's decision Thursday to delay a final vote on his bill to provide Fox Chase Cancer Center with a long-term lease on 19.4 acres in Burholme Park.
The hospital and research center is planning a billion-dollar development there over the next 15 to 20 years. O'Neill said he held the bill at the behest of center officials.
Meanwhile, late Thursday, Council approved another bill introduced by O'Neill that rezones the park land for an institutional- development district for the many buildings the center wants to build on the acreage.
The delayed lease bill could be voted at a special Council session next Wednesday if O'Neill and Fox Chase can work out their differences. The Street administration is pushing hard for Council passage of the lease. Thereafter, the issue must go to Orphan's Court for final action because Burholme Park was part of an 1895 bequest to the city.
O'Neill said Thursday that separate from the lease, he'd worked out an agreement with Fox Chase "to either buy land to replace it or do other improvements in Fox Chase and Burholme." O'Neill could not be reached for comment yesterday.
But as part of the proposed lease, Fairmount Park expects Fox Chase to provide equivalent acreage in the area for park development. Privately, some close to the deal have priced that equivalent acreage in the range of a $4.5- million investment by the center in the park system.
But the payments under the lease agreement are directed to Fairmount Park Commission. O'Neill said his agreement with Fox Chase would earmark monies to a yet-to-be-created entity.