Original jurisdiction in case of Ezy Parks, Inc.; Fisch's Parking Co., Inc.; Minnie Granato and Liberata Patrizi, t/a Pat's Parking Lot; Independence Hall Parking, Inc.; Winon Jenkins, a/k/a Winton Jenkins, Joseph Provenzano and Billie H. Thomas v. Thomas D. Larson, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation; David C. Sims, Deputy Secretary for Highway Administration, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation; James I. Scheiner, Deputy Secretary for Administration, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation; Robert L. Rowland, District Engineer for District 6 of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation; and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation.
Michael Sklaroff, with him, Stanley M. Shingles, Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, for petitioners.
Andrew H. Cline, Assistant Counsel, with him, Alexander V. Sarcione, Assistant Chief Counsel, Ward T. Williams, Chief Counsel, and Jay C. Waldman, General Counsel, for respondents.
Judges Williams, Jr., MacPhail and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr. This decision was reached prior to the expiration of the term of office of Judge Palladino.
[ 64 Pa. Commw. Page 166]
This Petition for Review in the nature of a complaint in equity was filed to the original jurisdiction*fn1 of this Court by lessees of certain properties located along Vine Street in Philadelphia. Petitioners pray that we enjoin the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation (PennDOT) from entertaining bids for leases on the premises, and declare the improvements on the properties to be personalty of petitioners, or, in the alternative, award damages to petitioners for the value of their leasehold estates and business accoutrements. Presently before us are preliminary objections to the petition, in which PennDOT (1) raises a question of jurisdiction, asserting that the petitioners have an adequate and exclusive remedy at law,*fn2 (2) argues that the petitioners lack standing, since they are suing as prospectively disappointed bidders and not as taxpayers, and (3) demurs to the allegations of the petition.
In ruling on preliminary objections, we bear in mind that such pleading admits as true all well-pleaded facts, and all inferences which may reasonably be deduced therefrom. Department of Transportation v. Pennsylvania Power and Light Co., 34 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 594, 383 A.2d 1314 (1978). The facts asserted in the Petition for Review indicate that the properties in question were condemned to prepare for the construction of the proposed Vine Street Expressway. Some petitioners are condemnees-in-possession; others acquired their leaseholds through competitive bidding, negotiations, and/or court settlements.
During the several years that the lessees have rented the premises, which are lucrative downtown parking
[ 64 Pa. Commw. Page 167]
lots, PennDOT has unilaterally raised the rental amount, and the lessees have paid same, allegedly with the stated understanding that the leaseholds would remain theirs until the purpose for which the land was condemned was undertaken.
The petition further indicates that, although both parties to the leases went through the formality of signing the leasing documents on a regular basis, there were oral agreements, frequently made and often-reaffirmed, by which PennDOT officials assured petitioners that their tenure at the pertinent locations would continue until the proposed construction along Vine Street became imminent. In reliance upon those assurances, the lessees made improvements to the parking lots, listed in Exhibit X, which include the installation of blacktop, bumper blocks, ticket splitters, peripheral boundary walls, electrical fixtures, and shelters for lot attendants.
The bid instructions issued by PennDOT stated that the bid would be
for land only, and that all personal property on the premises is assumed to be owned by the present occupant; whether the same be personalty, improvements to the land, or trade fixtures. However, as between PennDOT and present occupant, PennDOT reserves the right to take the position that certain items ...