Appeal, No. 24, March T., 1955, from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, March T., 1953, in Equity, No. 7, in case of Martin F. Spann et ux. v. Joint Boards of School Directors of Darlington Borough and South Beaver Township et al. Decree affirmed.
Thompson Bradshaw, with him Bradshaw & Panner, for appellants.
J. Quint Salmon, with him Sam. B. Wilson and Wilson & Salmon, for appellees.
Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE CHIDSEY
Plaintiffs, residents of Chippewa Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, appeal from a final decree of the Court of Common Pleas of that county dismissing a complaint in equity brought to restrain defendants, the Joint Boards of School Directors of Darlington Township, Darlington Borough and South Beaver
Township, all located in Beaver, County,*fn1 from condemning 20 acres of plaintiffs' farm land situated in the Township of Darlington. The questions presented are (1) whether defendants proceeded in the manner prescribed by law to condemn land required for school purposes and (2) was the defendant boards' action so arbitrary and capricious as to amount to an abuse of discretion.
The Board of School Directors of the School Districts of Darlington Township, Darlington Borough and South Beaver Township, all school districts of the fourth class, entered into an agreement on May 29, 1952, approved by a majority vote of the directors of each constituent district, to establish a joint secondary school pursuant to the provisions of the Public School Code of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, Sec. 1701, 24 PS § 17-1701, to be known as Northwestern Beaver County Joint School.*fn2 Sometime in 1938 the School Districts of Darlington Borough and Darlington Township, acting jointly, had acquired five acres of land from plaintiffs' predecessor in title and erected thereon an elementary school building. The need for secondary school facilities in the area was recognized by the various school boards three years prior to the formation of the jointure, but no formal action was taken looking toward the creation of such facilities until the jointure was formed. On June 2, 1952, at a meeting of the joint boards, one B. J. McCandless was employed as architect and directed to prepare plans for a secondary school building to be erected with the approval
and assistance of the State Public School Building Authority.
Previous to the employment of the architect, the defendants, through their solicitor, informed the plaintiff Martin Spann by a letter dated March 31, 1952 that they desired to acquire title to approximately twenty acres of the plaintiffs' 118 acre farm adjoining the existing elementary school. Spann was also requested to fix the price per acre which plaintiffs would be willing to accept and thereby avoid the expense of condemnation proceedings. Spann, through his attorney, replied declining to enter into any negotiations. On June 9, 1952 the joint boards authorized their solicitor to employ a surveyor to make a survey of that part of plaintiffs' land contemplated as the site for the proposed school. A committee of school directors was appointed by the president of the jointure on July 11, 1952 to contact the plaintiffs regarding the proposed location of the additional facilities. The committee called upon Spann on three separate occasions between July 11th and July 24th and endeavored to negotiate with him for the acquisition of the necessary acreage but Spann repeatedly advised them that none of his land was available with the possible exception of a triangular-shaped parcel comprising seven acres. The next board meeting containing any relevant action, as evidenced by the minute book, occurred on July 24, 1952, at which time the committee reported that Spann would not sell the land ...