Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County in case of Millcreek Township Sewer Authority v. Norman W. Seip and Margaret D. Seip, his wife, No. 4129A, 1978; and in case of Millcreek Township Sewer Authority v. Ralph R. Riehl and Susan Riehl, his wife, No. 4124-A, 1978.
Ralph R. Riehl, III, Alberstadt & Riehl, for appellants.
Joseph F. MacKrell, with him Paul F. Curry, Knox, Graham, McLaughlin, Gornall and Sennett, Inc., for appellee.
Judges Mencer, MacPhail and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. Judge Palladino did not participate in the decision in this case.
[ 64 Pa. Commw. Page 515]
Mr. & Mrs. Riehl and Mr. & Mrs. Seip (collectively Appellants) are adjoining property owners in Millcreek Township (Township). The Millcreek Township Sewer Authority (Authority) has constructed sewer lines in the Township and has assessed Appellants' lots for the cost thereof on a front foot basis. Appellants refused to pay the assessments whereupon Authority filed municipal claims. A scire facias issued on the claims pursuant to which appropriate pleadings were filed followed by a non-jury trial wherein all municipal claims against Appellants were consolidated. At the conclusion of that trial an order was entered by the trial judge finding the sewer assessments and computations valid.*fn1 This appeal followed.*fn2
Prior to trial, the parties entered into a stipulation of facts. From that stipulation and the evidence adduced at the trial it appears that the factual background of the case is as follows. Appellants Riehl own 2 lots of ground numbered 022 and 018 on the Township Property Map. The 2 lots contain 8 acres in the aggregate. The Riehl lots are bounded on the north by Wolf Road (a public road), and on the south by Watson Road (a private road). Other lots to the east of Riehl are similarly bounded on the north and south. Lot 018 is contiguous to and east of lot 022. A private road, 50 feet in width, runs north and south on the west side of lot 022. That private road separates the Riehl property from the Seip property. The Riehls have constructed a single family dwelling on lot 018 using a septic tank system for sewage disposal.
Appellants Seip also own two tracts of ground. Lot 035 contains 6.93 acres. It is bounded on the north by Wolf Road, on the east by the private road separating
[ 64 Pa. Commw. Page 516]
it from Riehls' lot 022 and on the south by other land, including Seips' second parcel which contains 4.68 acres. The second parcel does not appear to be involved in the instant dispute. Seips have a single family dwelling on lot 035 and use a septic system for sewage disposal.
When Appellants first purchased their respective tracts of real estate they were restricted by deed covenants to one single family dwelling on each lot. In 1963, however, all interested parties entered into an agreement whereby those restrictive covenants were modified to provide that Seip could subdivide lot 035 into three parcels and Riehl could subdivide each of his lots into two parcels. Nothing is said in the agreement about how the tracts are to be subdivided. Appellants have not subdivided their land and profess to have no intention of doing so.
The Authority constructed a new sewer line in Wolf Road, in Watson Road and in the private road separating the Riehl and Seip properties. Pursuant to Authority Resolution No. 542 (Resolution) assessments were made against each property on a front foot basis taking into account, after adjustments, the distance which each property fronted on each of the three streets.
Appellants do not dispute that their properties were benefited by the sewer lines in Wolf Road. Seips are not affected by nor assessed for the sewer line in Watson Road. Riehls do not deny that their property was benefited by the sewer line in Watson Road. Appellants jointly deny that their properties are benefited by the sewer line in the private road separating their properties. Almost all of the evidence received at the non-jury trial was directed to ...