Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County in case of In Re: Condemnation by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Harrisburg of Certain Parcels of Real Estate in the City of Harrisburg in connection with Urban Renewal Project Known as Penn-Susquehanna Flood Project UR Pa. R-634(c), No. 1284 June Term, 1975.
Robert L. Rubendall, with him, of counsel, Metzger, Hafer, Keefer, Thomas and Wood, for appellant.
James W. Reynolds, with him David A. Wion, and Reynolds, Bihl and Schaffner, for appellee.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
[ 30 Pa. Commw. Page 274]
Goodwill Industries of Central Pennsylvania, Inc. (Goodwill) appeals here from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County wherein Goodwill's preliminary objections to a declaration of taking filed by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Harrisburg (Authority) were overruled.
The properties owned by Goodwill which were condemned by the Authority are located in the Uptown section of the City of Harrisburg, an area extensively flooded by tropical storm Agnes in June of 1972. Following the flood, a portion of this section was surveyed by the Harrisburg City Planning Commission, and the Commission subsequently declared the surveyed
[ 30 Pa. Commw. Page 275]
area to be blighted and certified it as a redevelopment area as such is defined in Section 3(n) of the Urban Redevelopment Law,*fn1 35 P.S. § 1703(n). On September 12, 1972 the Harrisburg City Council authorized the Authority to apply for federal and state funds to redevelop the area, but, because of limitations in federal funding, the Authority ultimately produced a redevelopment plan which involved only a portion of the area originally certified as blighted by the Planning Commission but which included the Goodwill properties. This plan was entitled the Penn-Susquehanna Project Urban Renewal Plan (Penn-Susquehanna plan). In June of 1973, following a public hearing, the Harrisburg City Council approved the plan, including the acquisitions of real estate as proposed therein, and on July 16, 1975, the Authority filed a declaration of taking condemning four contiguous properties owned by Goodwill and located on North Second and North Front Streets. Goodwill filed preliminary objections to the declaration of taking, depositions were taken by both parties and filed of record, and the court overruled the preliminary objections. The court found that the City Planning Commission had acted in good faith in certifying the project area as blighted and that the Authority, inexercising the right of eminent domain in relation to Goodwill's properties, had acted in good faith and followed proper statutory procedures. This appeal followed.
Preliminary objections in a condemnation case serve a broader purpose than preliminary objections filed under the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure,*fn2 and, under Section 406(a) of the Eminent Domain
[ 30 Pa. Commw. Page 276]
Code,*fn3 26 P.S. § 1-406(a), a preliminary objection is the exclusive procedure to challenge the power or right of the Authority to condemn. It is the clear intent of Section 406 to dispose of challenges to the validity of a condemnation as soon as possible after the taking. Simco Stores v. Redevelopment Authority of Philadelphia, 455 Pa. 438, 317 A.2d 610 (1974).
In its first objection, Goodwill alleges that the action of the Authority in condemning the Goodwill property was arbitrary and capricious because the area of the city involved in the Penn-Susquehanna plan is not blighted. It argues first that the project area contains such minimal blight that condemnations under the redevelopment plan are unjustified, and also that the Authority acted arbitrarily in producing a redevelopment plan which involved only ...