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CRAWFORD v. REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY (06/30/65)

decided: June 30, 1965.

CRAWFORD
v.
REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, APPELLANT



Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County, No. 2360 in Equity, in case of Edith L. Crawford v. Redevelopment Authority of the County of Fayette and City of Uniontown.

COUNSEL

Herbert Margolis, with him Fred C. Adams and Milton D. Margolis, for appellants.

David E. Cohen, with him Hugh J. Lane, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen and O'Brien, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice O'Brien. Mr. Justice Roberts concurs in the result. Mr. Chief Justice Bell and Mr. Justice Jones dissent.

Author: O'brien

[ 418 Pa. Page 551]

The plaintiff-appellee, Edith L. Crawford, brought the within action in equity to enjoin the Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County from taking her property pursuant to a Redevelopment Plan. After a hearing in the court below, the chancellor found the following facts: "1. By resolution regularly adopted, the Planning Commission of the City of Uniontown certified the Old West School House Area, otherwise known as the Pennsylvania R-92 project, to be in need of redevelopment. Thereafter, the same body approved a redevelopment proposal for the area as prepared by the Redevelopment Authority of the County of Fayette. After public hearings on the redevelopment proposal, similar resolutions were duly adopted by the Council of the City of Uniontown and by the Fayette County Commissioners. 2. The Old West School House area or the R-92 project as it is presently constituted, comprises two city blocks of approximate equal areas, both of which are bounded on the east by Market Street and on the west by Mill Street. These two blocks are separated from each other by West Fayette Street, a 60-foot wide concrete highway which is one of Uniontown's main traffic arteries. The block to the north of Fayette Street is bound on its northern border by West South Street, and the block to the south of Fayette Street is bounded on its southern border by Ray Street. 3. On September 3, 1957, the City of Uniontown adopted a zoning ordinance in which the area in issue was zoned as 'General Business'. In this category the inclusion of schools, public or parochial, was specifically prohibited. 4. Subsequent to the adoption of the official city plan for the redevelopment of the City of Uniontown, in which the preceding zoning ordinance was incorporated as a part, a redevelopment proposal was submitted by the Fayette County Planning and Zoning Commission in which the permitted uses, as

[ 418 Pa. Page 552]

    they applied to the R-92 project, were restricted to: churches, temples, rectories, parochial schools, convents, historic buildings, playground areas, with accessory buildings and parking. 5. The block which lies south of Fayette Street is divided into two parts by an unnamed alley which extends east and west between Market and Mill Streets. The part which lies to the north of this alley comprises approximately one-third of the total area of the block, while that portion south of the unnamed alley comprises the remaining two-thirds. The area of the entire project, excluding streets, is 89,307 square feet, and the area south of the unnamed alley is 29,025 square feet, or 32.6 per cent of the whole R-92 redevelopment project. 6. The property of the plaintiff, and four others, lies in the area south of the unnamed alley, and constitutes the southernmost section of the R-92 redevelopment project. Her property fronts along Mill Street and has erected thereon a frame dwelling containing four apartments. Adjacent thereto is a substantial lawn and well-kept flower garden. This property occupies 14,885 square feet, or slightly more than fifty per cent of the area which lies south of the unnamed alley. 7. As heretofore stated, Ray Street constitutes the southernmost boundary of the R-92 project, across which street, in a southern direction, lies another contiguous block upon which is erected Saint Therese's Roman Catholic Church. 8. The resolution of the Planning Commission of the City of Uniontown certifying the R-92 project to be an area in need of redevelopment recites that 'A study of the area reveals that such area contains aged and deteriorating structures which prohibit the sound growth of the community.' These conditions are conceded to exist in the area of the project north of the unnamed alley and in the entire block north of Fayette Street. They do not so exist in the area south of the unnamed alley." The chancellor then concluded that

[ 418 Pa. Page 553]

    the area of the plaintiff's property was not blighted and entered a decree which forbade the taking of the plaintiff's property. This appeal followed.

This appeal raises many issues which we must consider. The first is the propriety of an attack in equity of a Redevelopment Authority Certification that an area is blighted. We have long held that such an attack is proper when it is alleged and proven that the Authority, in making its certification, acted in bad faith, arbitrarily, or failed to follow a statutory requirement. Oliver v. Clairton, 374 Pa. 333, 98 A.2d 47 (1953). In addition thereto, equity has the inherent power to examine the constitutionality of the actions of an authority. Eways v. Reading Parking Authority, 385 Pa. 592, 124 A.2d 92 (1956); Belovsky v. Redevelopment Authority, 357 Pa. 329, 54 A.2d 277 (1947). However, we must make clear the point that the courts have no right to substitute their discretion in place of the legislatively granted discretion of the Authority. We said, in Oliver v. Clairton, supra, p. 340: ". . . we said in Schenck v. Pittsburgh, 364 Pa. 31, pp. 35, 36, 70 A.2d 612, 614, that 'in the absence of any indication that the Commission did not act in good faith or was wholly arbitrary in certifying the area designated by it as blighted, its certification to that effect is not subject to judicial review,' and that, since the Urban Redevelopment Law 'gives the power of eminent domain to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, it is for that agency, and not for the courts, to determine whether or not the power should be exercised in this particular instance. It has been held in many cases that where the right of eminent domain is vested in a municipality, an administrative body, or even a private corporation, the question as to whether the circumstances justify the exercise of the power in a given instance is not a judicial one, at least in the absence of fraud or palpable bad faith.'" Schwartz v. Urban Redev. A. of Pgh., 416 Pa. 503, 206 A.2d 789 (1965).

[ 418 Pa. Page 554]

The power of discretion over what areas are to be considered blighted is solely within the power of the Authority. The only function of the courts in this matter is to see that the Authority has acted not in bad faith; to see that the Authority has not acted arbitrarily; to see that the Authority has followed the statutory procedures in making its determination; and finally, to see that the actions of the Authority do not violate any of our constitutional safeguards. Within this framework then, we must examine the ...


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