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HAROLD ATHERHOLT AND MARY ATHERHOLT v. INTERSTATE ENERGY COMPANY (05/15/78)

decided: May 15, 1978.

HAROLD ATHERHOLT AND MARY ATHERHOLT, HIS WIFE, AND GARY G. ATHERHOLT AND JUDITH G. ATHERHOLT, HIS WIFE, APPELLANTS
v.
INTERSTATE ENERGY COMPANY, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County in case of Harold Atherholt and Mary Atherholt, his wife, and Gary G. Atherholt and Judith G. Atherholt, his wife, Condemnees, v. Interstate Energy Company, Condemnor, No. 74-7456-09-6.

COUNSEL

C. Stephens Vondercrone, with him Edward J. Hardiman, for appellants.

Frederick E. Smith, with him Smith and Toner, for appellee.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Mencer and Rogers, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.

Author: Rogers

[ 35 Pa. Commw. Page 290]

The appellants, Harold Atherholt and Mary, his wife, and Gary Atherholt and Judith, his wife, own a 73.11 acre farm in Springfield Township, Bucks County. The appellee, Interstate Energy Company, condemned a pipeline easement (30 feet wide permanently and 20 feet additional during construction) over a part of the Atherholt property. A Board of Viewers awarded the Atherholts damages in the amount of $6,500. The Atherholts appealed and after trial a jury awarded them $46,500. Interstate filed a motion for new trial which the court below granted, and it is this action which the Atherholts have appealed. The court below held that the trial judge erred in admitting valuation opinion evidence of Atherholts' expert, after the witness had testified that he considered that the highest and best use was "in the future a potential to develop it, meantime using it for agricultural use." We agree that this was error and will affirm.

Section 601 of the Eminent Domain Code (Code), Act of June 22, 1964, Spec. Sess., P.L. 84, as amended, 26 P.S. § 1-601, entitled a condemnee to "just compensation for the taking, injury or destruction of his property." Just compensation is defined in Section 602 of the Code, 26 P.S. § 1-602 as "the difference between the fair market value of the condemnee's entire property interest immediately before the condemnation

[ 35 Pa. Commw. Page 291]

    and as unaffected thereby and the fair market value of his property interest remaining immediately after such condemnation and as affected thereby. . . ." (Emphasis supplied.) Section 603 of the Code, 26 P.S. § 1-603 defines fair market value as:

[T]he price which would be agreed to by a willing and informed seller and buyer, taking into consideration, but not limited to, the following factors:

(1) The present use of the property and its value for such use.

(2) The highest and best reasonably available use of the property and its ...


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