Appeals in cases of Lucille Lalmant Deigendesch and Jean Lalmant Leighton v. County of Bucks, Board of Assessment of the County of Bucks, Township of Upper Southampton and Centennial School District, No. 80-4587-12-1, and in case of In re: Appeal of Feeneys Nursery Inc., from the Order of the Bucks County Board of Assessment Appeals, T.P. 6-18-164 incl. 6-18-160, Assessments 1973 thru 1979, No. 80-3473-09-6.
Martin J. King, Solicitor, for appellant.
John Philip Diefenderfer, with him Robert F. Ruehl, Albert L. Blackman, Jr., Robert C. Steiger and Robert L. White, for appellees, Lucille Lalmant Deigendesch and Jean Lalmant Leighton.
William T. Renz, Power, Bowen & Valimont, for appellee, Feeneys Nursery, Inc.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Williams, Jr. and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr.
[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 489]
These consolidated cases require that this Court examine an act*fn1 permitting counties to covenant with
[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 490]
property owners for the preservation of unimproved land to obtain preferential tax assessment treatment (Act). Under the provisions of such a covenant, a land owner agrees, on behalf of "himself and his successors and assigns in right, title and interest"*fn2 to maintain the subject tract as farm, forest, water supply, or open space land, for a specified period of years. In turn, the county agrees to consider the restriction on the use of the land in assessing same. Should the property owner breach the covenant, he is required to pay the tax differential between the full assessed value and the compensatory assessed value from the effective date of the covenant.
Although the cases sub judice share an issue relating to whether the conveyance of a portion of covenanted land out of common ownership constitutes a breach of the Act, procedural and factual differences lead us to discuss the cases individually.
In 1972, the Claytons covenanted with Bucks County that they would maintain their 76-acre tract as farm land,*fn3 pursuant to the provisions of the Act and the Bucks County Declaration of General Conditions for Covenants. They subsequently sold the property to the appellee herein, Feeneys Nursery, Inc., subject to that covenant. Thereafter, on November 4, 1979, a real estate broker serving as selling agent for Feeneys notified the Bucks County Board of Assessment ...