Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Wayne County in case of Wayne County Board of Assessment v. Rolling Hills Girl Scout Council, No. 710 June Term, 1973.
I. Reines Skier, for appellant.
Lee C. Krause and Alfred J. Howell, with them Howell, Howell & Krause, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Mencer.
[ 19 Pa. Commw. Page 486]
This is an appeal by the Wayne County Board of Assessment from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Wayne County granting real estate tax exemption status to approximately 1,399 acres of land owned by the Rolling Hills Girl Scout Council (Rolling Hills).
The testimony in the record reveals that Rolling Hills, a New Jersey nonprofit corporation, purchased three large parcels of land in Buckingham Township for a consideration of $150,000. At the time of this litigation, approximately $86,000 remained outstanding on the property's mortgage. After the purchase, Rolling Hills spent an additional $359,000 erecting further facilities for camping in one area designated on the Wayne County tax maps as Property No. 154-12-NT.1. This area consisted of approximately 25 acres.
On August 20, 1973, the Wayne County Board of Assessment ruled that the property in question is taxable. Rolling Hills then appealed "from the adjudication of the Wayne County Board of Assessment . . ., declaring the property in Buckingham Township No. 154-12-NT.1 to be taxable . . . ." The Court of Common Pleas of Wayne County, after a de novo hearing, reversed and held that all of the 1,399 acres of land are tax exempt.
Initially, we must consider the issue of whether or not, when an appeal is taken from an assessment on one tract, a court may decree the other lands of a property
[ 19 Pa. Commw. Page 487]
owner, on which no appeal from an assessment was taken, to be tax exempt also. We think not.
It is clear that Rolling Hills was only appealing the Board's adjudication as to the 25 developed acres of land. No doubt Rolling Hills was quite pleased when the lower court ordered exemption for 1,399 acres. However, it is clear that the jurisdiction of the common pleas court in this exemption case was limited to only those matters properly raised before it. The lower court was without power to consider and rule upon assessments, not appealed, concerning other tracts of land. See Grandview Cemetery Association v. Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment, 209 Pa. Superior Ct. 109, 224 A.2d 780 (1966). The proceeding before the lower court was a statutory proceeding and required the statute to be followed in a strict manner.
Just as a court deciding an appeal pursuant to The General County Assessment Law*fn1 may not exceed its authority by adjudicating matters not properly before it, a court deciding an exemption appeal pursuant to The Fourth to Eighth Class County Assessment Law,*fn2 which is applicable here, cannot exceed its authority in adjudicating matters not properly before it. Each assessment must be ...