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ATLANTIC-INLAND v. BOARD SUPERVISORS WEST GOSHEN TOWNSHIP AND TOWNSHIP WEST GOSHEN (01/10/80)

decided: January 10, 1980.

ATLANTIC-INLAND, INC., APPELLANT
v.
THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF WEST GOSHEN TOWNSHIP AND TOWNSHIP OF WEST GOSHEN, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County in the case of Atlantic-Inland, Inc. v. The Board of Supervisors of West Goshen Township and Township of West Goshen, No. 300 January Term, 1975.

COUNSEL

Howard Wallner, for appellant.

Ronald C. Nagle, with him, Buckley, Nagle & McGuire, for appellees.

Judges Rogers, Blatt and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt. This decision was reached prior to the expiration of the term of office of Judge DiSalle. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Craig. This decision was reached prior to the expiration of the term of office of Judge DiSalle.

Author: Blatt

[ 48 Pa. Commw. Page 399]

Atlantic-Inland, Inc. (appellant) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County dismissing its complaint in equity and mandamus against West Goshen Township (Township).*fn1

In 1974, the West Goshen Township Board of Supervisors (Board of Supervisors) passed an ordinance known as the West Goshen Township Electrical Code (Code), which establishes a system for the inspection of certain electrical work done within the Township. It provided in part as follows:

Approved Electrical Inspection Agency -- shall mean the Middle Department Association of Fire Underwriter[s], the Middle Atlantic Electrical Inspection, Incorporated and such other electrical inspecting agency or agencies which shall hereafter be approved by resolution of the Board of Township Supervisors.

Section 3(b) of the Code.

As to the method of approval, it provided:

The Building Inspector shall not accept any Certificate of Inspection from an inspecting agency which has not been approved by resolution

[ 48 Pa. Commw. Page 400]

    of the Board of Supervisors who will investigate the qualifications, method of operation, completeness of inspectional activity, amount of insurance coverage, and type of report before approving such agency.

Section 6(d) of the Code.

Following the enactment of the ordinance, the appellant applied for approval as an electrical inspection agency, but the Township denied the application, explaining in a letter to the appellant that it was "quite satisfied with the present inspection agencies doing electrical inspection for this Township." The appellant thereupon filed a complaint in the county court of common pleas seeking a declaration that the ordinance, on its face and as applied, was unconstitutional or, in the alternative, that a writ of mandamus be issued directing the Township to approve the appellant as an electrical inspector.

On the record then developed before the court below, the court found that the actual reason for the appellant's rejection was its record of defective inspections and its failure to follow reporting procedures. As to the constitutionality of the ordinance, the court determined that it was a valid exercise of the Township's police power, holding that the designation of two approved agencies was not a denial of substantive due process or equal protection and that the method of approval was not so vague as to violate procedural due process. In addition, the court ruled that a writ of mandamus was inappropriate because approval here was a discretionary matter and the Township had not abused its discretion.

The appellant now raises two constitutional issues. It argues first that the designation of two agencies as not requiring approval violates the principle of equal protection and Article III, Section 32 of the

[ 48 Pa. Commw. Page 401]

Pennsylvania Constitution, which prohibits special legislation "[r]egulating labor, trade, mining or manufacturing". Secondly, it argues that the standards for agencies seeking approval are so vague as to constitute a violation of due process.*fn2 The appellant does not explicitly address the issue of mandamus.

As to the appellant's due process argument, we are unable to agree that the standards governing approval in Section 6(d) of the Code are so vague as to render them unconstitutional. The ordinance clearly suggests that, upon application by an inspection agency, the Board of Supervisors will "investigate the qualifications, method of operation, completeness of insurance coverage, and types of report before approving such agency." Section 6(d) of the Code. The ordinance thus establishes a number of areas into which the Township may inquire in determining whether or not an agency is competent to conduct electrical inspections. The appellant argues that the ordinance does not establish any specific criteria that must be met for approval and that the Township need not approve anyone, so that the absence of explicit guidelines may result in arbitrary and discriminatory approval decisions by the Township. We believe, however, that the appropriate standard to be applied here is suggested in Dixon v. Pennsylvania Crime Commission, 347 F. Supp. 138, 144 (E.D. Pa. 1972):

A statute is not unconstitutionally vague merely because clearer and more precise language could have been used; it is sufficient if it contains ...


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