Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County, in case of In the Matter of the Annexation of a Portion of West Mead Township, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, to the City of Meadville, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, No. 40 Misc. 1969. Transferred from the Superior Court of Pennsylvania to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, November 13, 1970.
Stuart A. Culbertson, for appellant.
Charles J. Swick, City Solicitor, for appellee.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. President Judge Bowman did not participate.
The order of the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County affirming the annexation of a portion of West Mead Township to the City of Meadville, as described in Meadville City Ordinance No. 2704 is hereby affirmed upon the opinion of President Judge P. Richard Thomas. The pertinent portions of President Judge Thomas's opinion follow:
This matter is before the court on appeal by the Supervisors of West Mead Township from the adoption of Annexation Ordinance No. 2704 by the City of Meadville on March 25, 1969. Proceedings were under the Act of July 20, 1953, P.L. 550 (53 P.S. 67501). Seven property owners were affected by the annexation, four of whom joined in the petition for annexation. The annexed area contains approximately twenty-four (24) acres. The four property owners signing the annexation petition own in excess of twenty (20) acres of the land; Golfview Manor, Inc., a multiple family apartment complex, owns about nineteen of these twenty acres. One dwelling house and one church are involved in the area, the owners of which joined in the petition for annexation. The remaining acreage consists of vacant building lots owned by petitioners and non-petitioners.
The annexed area is bounded on the north by a public road, on the east and south by the City of Meadville, and on the west by a public road across which lies land in the city. This area forms something of a "pocket" which was excluded from a former annexation proceeding
because the former owners had no desire at that time to come into the city.*fn1
Annexation problems between the City of Meadville and West Mead Township have generated considerable litigation and controversy in the recent decade. (See, In Re: Annexation of Part of West Mead Township to City of Meadville (No. 1) (220 acres -- Terrace Street and Baldwin Street area), 3 Crawford Legal Journal 175, affirmed on appeal 411 Pa. 94, 191 A.2d 273 (1963); In Re: Annexation of Part of West Mead Township to City of Meadville (No. 4) (Ray Horton American Legion Post), 3 Crawford Legal Journal 186 (1963) (dismissed on technical grounds); In Re: Annexation of a Part of West Mead Township to City of Meadville (No. 2) (450 acres -- North Main Street area), 4 Crawford Legal Journal 164, affirmed on appeal 206 Pa. Superior Ct. 166, 213 A.2d 124 (1965).)
The posture of the two municipalities is the familiar one of the city claiming more land is needed for expansion and the township pleading that piecemeal annexation erodes the tax base and precludes future planning for supplying services. The posture of the land owner in the annexed areas usually varies, depending on emotionalism, future tax and service charge projections, or the present condition of the individual's water well and septic tank.
We need not here recite a lengthy decisional history of the criteria the court should use in approving or disapproving annexation. The polestar guiding the court must be whether the proposed annexation serves the general public interest and this includes many considerations. Conewago Township Annexation, 7 Adams L.J. 139 (1966). The court must consider not only the
municipalities involved but also the interest of the owners of the property in the area proposed to be annexed. Lancaster Annexation Case, 183 Pa. Superior Ct. 618, 132 A.2d 743 (1957). However it seems obvious that the wishes of the majority of the freeholders in the area is only one of many factors involved because, obviously, since a majority of the freeholders must be petitioners for annexation, the court approval would be mandatory if their wishes were controlling. Chartiers Township Appeal, 414 Pa. 176, 199 A.2d 443 (1964). The reduction of assessed valuation and consequent loss of revenue to the township is present in every annexation proceeding and is an important but not controlling factor. Barry Township Annexation Case, 398 Pa. 180, 157 A.2d 410 (1960) (assessed value of township reduced twenty-one percent -- annexation approved).
The legislature never intended that township lines should remain intact. The intention of the legislature was that annexation should take place under the terms prescribed by it where the circumstances warrant annexation. Annexation is an intrinsic right and duty imposed upon municipal corporations by the very exigencies of social progress and governmental orderliness. Lancaster Annexation Case (No. 1), 374 Pa. 529, 98 A.2d 25 (1953).
The focus of this annexation is the Golfview Manor complex consisting of several apartment and town house buildings and a clubhouse and swimming pool that will initially comprise 96 living units. Future plans call for more buildings with an additional 128 living units. The real estate, per capita and wage tax receipts from this ...