Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County, in case of Annexation of a Portion of West Mead Township to the City of Meadville, Farrah-Simonetta, et al., No. 96, Clerk of Court Miscellaneous Sessions, 1969.
Charles J. Swick, City Solicitor, for appellant.
Stuart A. Culbertson, Township Solicitor, for appellee.
Judges Kramer, Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Kramer.
This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County, sustaining the appeal of the Supervisors of West Mead Township (Township), and declaring "null and void" an Annexation Ordinance of the City of Meadville (City).
In November of 1967, an investment group (hereinafter referred to as Simonetta) of three men and their wives purchased approximately 169 acres of land situated in the Township, but adjacent to the City boundary lines. Simonetta intended to construct multifamily residential dwellings on about 50 acres of its property, with the remainder to be utilized for individual residential purposes. Simonetta made an informal inquiry with officials of the Township concerning the possibility of such a project including a general reference to the availability of water and sewage service. Simonetta, however, never made a specific proposal, and failed to respond to the request of Township officials for a more detailed statement of the Simonetta proposal. Having never commenced a formal proceeding before an official body of the Township, Simonetta
obtained the signatures of seventeen property owners (out of a total of twenty-three) on a petition addressed to the City, requesting that an area totaling 180 acres, located in the Township, be annexed to the City.
Under the provisions of the Act of July 20, 1953, P.L. 550, 53 P.S. § 67501 et seq., the City passed an Ordinance (on August 5, 1969), approving the annexation of the described realty, thereby declaring such realty to be a part of the City upon the approval of the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County. On September 2, 1969, the Township filed a complaint and appeal from the annexation proceedings, which had been filed by the City with the court. The court, being satisfied with "the legality of the proceeding," (the Township having withdrawn its objection to the question of the legality) appointed a Board of three Commissioners (Board). The Board held hearings and filed a report containing its findings of fact for the use of the court. Thereafter the court below, having determined that it was in need of additional testimony and evidence, ordered an additional hearing de novo, excepting certain matters which had already been set forth in the Board's report. At the conclusion of the hearing before the court, at which all parties were encouraged to present their respective positions and supporting evidence, the court entered its final order and supporting opinion, sustaining the Township's appeal, from which order this appeal was lodged.
Our review of the record, made in this case, leads us to conclude that all of the procedural provisions of the 1953 Act, 53 P.S. § 67501 et seq. were met. The sole issue presented to this Court by the City is whether the lower court abused its discretion in refusing to approve the annexation on the basis that it was not in "the public interest."
This case presents a typical bitterly contested annexation case between a rapidly growing and progressive city, seeking to increase its territorial limits, and a jealous township anxious to preserve unto itself its territory with all of its revenue producing benefits. The two municipalities involved in this case have been in court on several different annexation cases, perhaps more than any other two municipalities in the Commonwealth. As the court below pointed out in its opinion, in this case, and as we pointed out in the case of West Mead Township v. Meadville, 6 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 265, 294 A.2d 600 (1972), these two municipalities have battled constantly over questions of annexation for the past dozen years. Unfortunately the Legislature has not followed the mandate of the electorate as found in the constitutional amendments, effective April 23, 1968, Pennsylvania Constitution, Art. IX, § 8, which states that the Legislature ". . . shall, within two years following the adoption of this article . . ." enact uniform legislation intended to cure the defects in the presently provided statutory procedure. In view of the fact that the Legislature has failed to act, the 1953 Act is still the controlling body of statutory law applicable to this case. See Norwegian Township v. Minersville, 5 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. ...