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SPRINGDALE TOWNSHIP v. ALLEGHENY COUNTY BOARD PROPERTY ASSESSMENT (10/26/83)

decided: October 26, 1983.

SPRINGDALE TOWNSHIP
v.
ALLEGHENY COUNTY BOARD OF PROPERTY ASSESSMENT, APPEALS AND REVIEW, ET AL. WEST PENN POWER COMPANY, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in case of Springdale Township v. Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review and West Penn Power Company, No. GD 80-29431.

COUNSEL

Michael W. Balfe, Rose, Schmidt, Dixon & Hasley, with him Edward S. Stiteler, for appellant.

William P. Bresnahan, Assistant County Solicitor, with him James H. McLean, County Solicitor, Patrick J. Lughney and William J. Fahey, for appellees, County of Allegheny.

John G. Arch, for appellee, Springdale Township.

Judges Rogers, Craig and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 78 Pa. Commw. Page 101]

West Penn Power Company appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, which denied West Penn's motion to dismiss an appeal Springdale Township and Allegheny County had filed in that court challenging the tax exempt status of a portion of West Penn's property at its Springdale Power Plant. The court rejected West Penn's contentions that the Commonwealth was an indispensable party and that the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission had exclusive jurisdiction of the case; those two issues are now before us on appeal.

The township had first appealed to the Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review, arguing that a segment of West Penn's property was not entitled to exemption from local taxation; the board denied the appeal, determining that the property in question was exempt because it was subject to taxation under the Public Utility Realty Tax Act, Act of March 10, 1970, P.L. 168, 72 P.S. §§ 3271-3278, amended and placed under the Tax Reform

[ 78 Pa. Commw. Page 102]

Code, Act of July 4, 1979, P.L. 60, 72 P.S. §§ 8101-A -- 8108-A (PURTA).

1. Background

The controverted property is that part of West Penn's Springdale operation, located in Springdale Township, which contains the coal storage and handling facilities. Because the plant switched from the use of coal to oil in 1974, those facilities are no longer in use. A plant building in the area contains several dismantled turbine generators, the water purification system, the laboratory and the plant office; it also provides storage space and serves as a base for large transmission towers. The plant's network of railroad sidings also passes through the disputed area.

2. Statutory Scheme

The township contends on the merits that West Penn's property is not properly included in PURTA because it does not meet the statutory definition of "utility realty".*fn1 Although we do not reach the ...


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