Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County in case of In Re: Appeal of the Board of School Directors of the Owen J. Roberts School District from Decision of the Board of Assessment Appeals of Chester County Exempting from Taxation Premises Designated Parcel, 24-6-3, East Nantmeal Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, No. 244-P Misc. 1977.
Lane H. Daylor, with him Kranzley, Wrigley, Yergey & Daylor, for appellant.
John S. Halsted, County Solicitor, and Milton Apfelbaum, Assistant County Solicitor, for appellees, Chester County and Chester County Board of Assessment Appeals.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Rogers and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.
[ 45 Pa. Commw. Page 136]
This is an appeal by the board of school directors of the Owen J. Roberts School District (school board) from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County exempting from taxation the premises designated parcel 24-6-3, and known as Welkinweir. We affirm the lower court.
Welkinweir is an estate in Chester County consisting of 162 acres of land, a 20-to 24-room house, a garage, and an equipment building. Until May 31, 1977, Welkinweir was privately owned by Everett and Grace Rodebaugh. However, on that date the Rodebaughs conveyed Welkinweir by deed to the "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for and on behalf of West Chester State College." The conveyance was made under and subject to the terms of both an "Open Space Easement in Gross" granted to the Green Valleys Association, and a "Statement of Principles With Respect to Gift of 'Welkinweir' and its Furnishings," executed by the Rodebaughs and West Chester State College.
Under the terms of the statement of principles, the Rodebaughs retained the right to reside at Welkinweir as long as they, or the survivor of them, desired, as well as the right to "enjoy all those uses and prerogatives which preceded transfer of title, including
[ 45 Pa. Commw. Page 137]
but not limited to providing entertainment and lodging for relatives and friends and acting as hosts to conservation, musical, and other groups." In addition, the Rodebaughs retained the right to approve any major physical additions, and to approve "the details and timing" of proposed uses of Welkinweir. The statement of principles also committed the Rodebaughs to making available their consultation services without charge, and required West Chester State College to give the wishes and recommendations of the Rodebaughs on the uses of Welkinweir "special consideration."
In July, 1977, the Chester County Board of Assessment Appeals removed Welkinweir from the tax rolls, exempting the property because of its transfer to the Commonwealth. The school board appealed, and the Board of Assessment Appeals held a hearing, after which it affirmed the exemption. The school board then appealed to the lower court, contending that the property was not used for public purposes, and therefore was not entitled to an exemption, according to Article VIII, Section 2 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and Section 204 of The General County Assessment Law (Law), Act of May 22, 1933, P.L. 853, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5020-204.
Article VIII, Section 2 states:
(A) The General Assembly may by law exempt ...