Appeals from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, No. 5837 of 1966, in re petition of John P. Acchione for private sale of real estate by Township of Tinicum.
James L. Rankin, with him Rankin & Rankin, for appellants.
John H. Clark, Jr., with him Seletz and Clark, for appellant.
Garland D. Cherry, with him Kassab, Cherry, Curran and Archbold, for appellee.
Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Jones. Mr. Justice Roberts concurs in the result.
In 1957, Tinicum Township (Township), a first-class township, purchased a tract of land, consisting of approximately 19 acres, located at the corner of Wanamaker Avenue and Governor Printz Boulevard in Tinicum Township, Delaware County. On August 3, 1959, the Township duly adopted an ordinance which provided, in pertinent part: "The Township does hereby dedicate and set apart for public park and recreation purposes and for making, enlarging and maintaining
public parks, recreation areas and facilities, [the 19 acre tract of land]."*fn1
The Township Recreation Board, with the Township's authority, supervised, maintained and regulated this land from 1959 until 1966. The land was used by the public especially the youth of the Township for approximately five months during each year; located thereon were two softball fields with bleachers, backstops, and permanent bases, provided, with township funds, by the recreation board. In October, 1963, the Township sold approximately one-third acre of this land to an adjoining church, and at that time, the Township, acting through its commissioners, placed in the township records a so-called "statement of principles" to the effect that this land was not for sale and would not be for sale unless and until substitute land was available, that it would not be for sale until highway plans of the Commonwealth which would take part of the property were finalized and that no agreement for the sale of any substantial part of this land would be entered into "without first holding a public hearing."
On February 7, 1966, by a resolution which was not advertised, the township commissioners were authorized to dispose of the land "at public or private sale," after procuring approval of any court "if, as, and when necessary" with the direction that proceeds derived from the sale should not be used for general purposes but should continue to be held for "public purposes as may hereafter be determined." On February 21, 1966, George and Louis Goodman conferred with the township commissioners and township solicitor. While there is a conflict of testimony as to what transpired at
that meeting, there was testimony that George Goodman was willing to offer $125,000 for the land as then zoned, although the Township witnesses stated such offer was contingent upon the zoning being changed. Late in March 1966, the township commissioners met with one John P. Acchione, and, on April 4, 1966, at a regular meeting, the commissioners authorized the sale of the land to Acchione for $100,000 at a private, not a public, sale. On April 6, 1966, the township commissioners entered into a written agreement with Acchione "or his nominee" for the sale of the land for $100,000, this agreement stating, inter alia, "This agreement is subject to the approval of any Court which may be required and if Court approval cannot be obtained then this agreement shall become null and void." By a letter mailed to the township commissioners and read at their regular meeting on May 2, 1966, ...