Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, in case of In Re: Establishment of Boundary Between Collier Township and Robinson Township, No. 186 June Sessions, 1967, and No. 16 January Term, 1971.
Michael B. Kaleugher, with him Rosenberg, Kirshner & Solomon, for Collier Township.
Joseph I. Lewis, with him Ernest L. Butya, for Robinson Township.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
In 1874, Collier Township (Collier) was erected out of a part of Robinson Township (Robinson). In 1963 a dispute arose between the townships as to the exact location of their boundaries, specifically Collier's northern boundary line and the southern line of Robinson. The description of this boundary in the 1874 proceeding was as follows: "Thence near the line of Nesbit, Nixon, McMillan & Negley South 100 perches to a post in center of new road on Campbell's Run. Thence up said run by courses of said road. . . ." In the area in question there is a stream known as Campbell's Run (Run) and a road north of the stream and running parallel thereto known as Campbell's Run Road (Road). The area between the two contains 18.75 acres and is made up of a long narrow strip from 50 feet to approximately 200 feet wide. Collier claimed
that the Road was the proper boundary while Robinson claimed that its territory extended to the Run.
When the parties were unable to come to an agreement, Collier filed a petition with the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County pursuant to Section 302 of The First Class Township Code, Act of June 24, 1931, P.L. 1206, as amended, 53 P.S. § 55302,*fn1 asking that court to ascertain and establish the boundary between the two townships. As provided in Section 303 of the First Class Township Code, 53 P.S. § 55303, the court appointed a commission to consider the merits of the petition and to prepare a report ascertaining the boundary. The commission held hearings, and thereafter filed its report with the court, finding that the Road was intended to be the boundary line between the two townships and re-establishing the Road as the boundary. Robinson filed exceptions to the report with the lower court, which, following argument on such exceptions, reversed the commission and established the Run as the boundary line. Each township has appealed to this Court, and their appeals were consolidated for argument and are dealt with in this opinion.
Collier argues that the lower court erred by substituting its findings and conclusions for that of the commission. It contends that Section 304 of the First Class
Township Code, 53 P.S. § 55304,*fn2 limits the court to considering only questions of law, and, if the court disapproves of the commission's findings of fact, it must return the matter to the commission, or to a new commission, to prepare a new report. We agree.
We believe that Sections 303 and 304, 53 P.S. §§ 55303 and 55304, were intended to assign to a commission the role of fact-finder in cases involving boundary disputes. The order of a commission, as the trier of fact, has the force and effect of a jury verdict and, therefore, when there is legally competent testimony to support the order, it will not be disturbed by a reviewing court. Cf. North Braddock Borough's Boundary Case, 126 Pa. Superior Ct. 25, 190 A. 350 (1937). If the reviewing court is dissatisfied with the report of the commission, it is given the authority to refer the matter back to the same or new ...