Valley Township v. City of Coatesville, 031606 PACCA, 1587 CD 2005

Docket Nº:1587 CD 2005
Party Name:Valley Township v. City of Coatesville
Case Date:March 16, 2006
Court:Court of Appeals of Pennsylvania
 
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Valley Township

v.

City of Coatesville, Richard A. Saha, Nancy K. Saha, David M. DenBraven, Linda A. McCreary-DenBraven, Gary A. Hanna, Sr. and Marie Hanna

Appeal of: City of Coatesville

No. 1587 C.D. 2005

Court of Appeals of Pennsylvania

March 16, 2006

Argued: February 28, 2006

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Judge, HONORABLE JOSEPH F. McCLOSKEY, Senior Judge

OPINION

DAN PELLEGRINI, JUDGE

The City of Coatesville (Condemnor) appeals from two orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County (trial court) – one denying its motion for judgment on the pleadings, and the other granting in part the motion for summary judgment filed by Valley Township (Township) because Condemnor's condemnation of property owned by Richard A. and Nancy K. Saha (Sahas) constituted the subdivision of that property and required compliance with the provisions of the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC)1] and Township Subdivision Ordinance (Subdivision Ordinance).

These parties have previously been before this Court on a related matter that is now pertinent to the present appeal. In the prior case, Condemnor authorized the acquisition of a portion of the Sahas' property on June 26, 2000, through the exercise of eminent domain for the purpose of creating "a public golf course and related facilities and other recreational uses comprising a regional family recreational complex" and filed a declaration of taking on August 2, 2000, condemning a portion of their property.2] In response to the taking, the Sahas filed preliminary objections alleging that the Third Class City Code3] did not authorize the taking of land by eminent domain for a golf course; the proposed use was not for a public purpose; Condemnor's plans had indicated that only nine acres of the Sahas' property would be taken; and the property taken was located outside of the City of Coatesville.

Condemnor filed an amended declaration of taking amending the purpose of the condemnation to the creation of "a public golf course and golf-related facilities." The Sahas filed a motion to strike the amended declaration alleging that the Eminent Domain Code4] provided no authority for filing an amended declaration. The trial court issued an order dated January 11, 2002, sustaining that portion of the Sahas' preliminary objections challenging the adequacy of the stated purpose of the taking and requiring Condemnor to amend its declaration to specify the purpose for which the Sahas' land was to be taken. It also required Condemnor to amend its declaration of taking so that the property taken conformed to an application for subdivision approval by the Township and required Condemnor to submit an application for subdivision approval to the Township within 60 days of the order.

In a separate action, the Township filed a complaint in equity with the trial court seeking to block Condemnor's exercise of eminent domain alleging that Condemnor's partial condemnation of the Sahas' property was illegal and violated the MPC and the Township's Subdivision Ordinance because the taking constituted a subdivision of the property for which Condemnor did not obtain prior subdivision approval. It sought a declaration that the condemnation was invalid. In response, Condemnor filed preliminary objections arguing that it was not required to seek subdivision approval from the Township prior to condemning the property. The trial court issued an order on January 11, 2002, overruling Condemnor's preliminary objections concluding that the Township had stated a justiciable claim because the partial condemnation was a regulatory subdivision requiring prior plan approval. The Township filed an amended complaint again arguing that Condemnor's taking constituted a subdivision of the property for which Condemnor did not obtain prior subdivision approval, and Condemnor had violated the Subdivision Ordinance and MPC. In response, Condemnor filed an answer with new matter alleging that it was not required to seek subdivision approval from the Township prior to condemning the property.

The parties filed cross appeals with this Court from the trial court's orders, and we issued an opinion in In re: Condemnation by the City of Coatesville (Saha), 822 A.2d 846 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2003), petition for allowance of appeal denied, 576 Pa. 715, 839 A.2d 353 (2003), holding, inter alia,5] that the Sahas' preliminary objections were waived regarding Condemnor's failure to ensure that the excepted parcel conformed to the Subdivision Ordinance because they were not raised in their preliminary objections. In footnote 11 of that decision, we went on to state that even though the Sahas' challenge as to whether the property taken conformed to the zoning and subdivision ordinances was not properly raised and, therefore, waived, nothing in the Eminent Domain Code required an entity to file a subdivision application either before or after a declaration of...

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