Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County in case of Jane Strayer Hess and Lawrence Eugene Hess, Jr. v. Montgomery County Board of Assessment Appeals, No. 79-14568.
Lawrence Eugene Hess, Jr., for appellants.
Bruce J. Eckel, Assistant County Solicitor, with him David M. McGlaughlin, Assistant County Solicitor, and Frederic M. Wentz, County Solicitor, for appellees.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Rogers, Blatt, Craig and MacPhail. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.
Appellants*fn1 have brought this appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County which rejected their constitutional challenge*fn2 to the provisions of the Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act of 1974 (Act)*fn3 which place a ten acre minimum area requirement on the availability of preferential tax treatment for "forest reserves".*fn4
Appellants own property located in Upper Dublin Township which includes six acres of forest land. Appellants applied for a preferential property tax assessment for their forest land pursuant to the provisions of the Act which prescribe procedures for obtaining preferential tax assessments for land devoted
to agricultural use, agricultural reserve use and forest reserve use.*fn5 As will be seen, the Act constitutes the implementing legislation for the authority granted to the General Assembly by Article 8, Section 2(b)(i) of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Pa. Const. art. VIII, § 2(b)(i).
"Forest reserves" are defined by the Act as follows:
Land, ten acres or more, stocked by forest trees of any size and capable of producing timber or other wood products.
Section 2 of the Act, 72 P.S. § 5490.2. Appellants' application for a preferential assessment was denied by the Board of Assessment Appeals because the subject property consists of less than ten contiguous acres of land. On appeal to the common pleas court, Appellants' sole argument was that the ten acre minimum area limitation for preferential tax assessments violates the uniformity clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Pa. Const. art. VIII, § 1. The court concluded that preferential tax assessments for forest reserves are specifically allowed by Article 8, Section 2(b)(i) of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and that the ten acre qualification for forest reserves is a reasonable prerequisite for preferential tax relief. The instant appeal followed.
Appellants have renewed their argument before this Court that the uniformity clause is violated by the Act's requirement that a property must consist of ten or more ...