Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County in case of Petition for Incorporation of Laurel Mountain, No. 178 July of 1978.
Richard F. Flickinger, Flickinger and Flickinger, for appellant.
William D. Boyle, for appellee.
Judges Mencer, Rogers and Williams, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 59 Pa. Commw. Page 533]
The Supervisors of Ligonier Township (Township) appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County granting the prayer of a property owner's petition seeking the incorporation as a borough of an approximately 90 acre tract of land within the Township known as Laurel Mountain Park (Park).*fn1 A trial was conducted by Judge Loughran sitting without a jury. Evidence there adduced shows that the Park was originally a community of second homes. It now consists of 110 homes, about 15 of which are of the vacation variety, a swimming pool, tennis courts, and other common land and buildings. The recreational facilities, common holdings and certain easements and utility facilities are owned and
[ 59 Pa. Commw. Page 534]
managed by an association of property owners. Maintenance and debt service have been financed by dues and assessments.
The president of the Park association testified below to the association's difficulties with dues collection, the failure of the Township to install and maintain storm sewers and domestic water lines, and its longstanding refusal to accept dedication of Park roads or to assist in their repair or maintenance. The same witness expressed a hope and belief that the power to tax as a borough would solve the Park's residents' problems.
By order of the Court of Common Pleas, a study by the Pennsylvania Economy League was commissioned. This study has been made a part of the record. It sets forth in great detail the history of the Park, its necessary expenses, the sources of revenue it would have as a borough, and other considerations necessary to a reasoned decision of the question of whether the Park ought to be a borough. Concerning the immediate effects of incorporation, the report concludes:
1. One of the most obvious immediate results of borough incorporation is the power to tax. Laurel Mountain Park would thus have the ability to adequately finance its operations and services by various tax levies, rather than by dues assessments.
2. Borough status for Laurel Mountain Park will have a minimal financial impact on Ligonier Township. According to 1977 tax figures, taxes paid by Laurel Mountain Park residents represented approximately 2.3 percent of the Township's 1977 proposed budget.
3. Residents would be paying less for their services as a borough than they currently are as part of Ligonier Township for ...