Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County in case of Township of Doylestown v. Elaine P. Zettick, Andrew L. Warren, Carl F. Fonash, individually and as Commissioners of Bucks County and The County of Bucks, No. 81-08238-09-5.
James M. Niel, with him George M. Bush, and Joseph H. Wagner, for appellant.
James M. McNamara, for appellees.
Judges Rogers, Williams, Jr. and Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr.
[ 80 Pa. Commw. Page 114]
The Township of Doylestown (appellant) has appealed from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County sustaining preliminary objections to the Township's complaint in equity.
On a date not averred in appellant's complaint, the Commissioners of Bucks County (Commissioners) adopted a resolution to build a new county prison facility on property which is owned by Bucks County and located in Doylestown Township. No actions in furtherance of this resolution had been taken by the Commissioners when, on September 22, 1981, the Township filed the instant action in equity. The Township asserted in its complaint that construction of the prison outside the county seat of Bucks County, which is the Borough of Doylestown, is prohibited by The County Code (Code),*fn1 and requested an injunction restraining the Commissioners and the County of Bucks (appellees) from building the prison in Doylestown Township. The appellees interposed preliminary objections to the complaint, challenging equity's power to inquire into this matter. By order dated December 29, 1981, the court below sustained the preliminary objections and dismissed the Township's complaint with prejudice.
In its opinion filed in support of that order, the trial court, rather than confining its discussion to the jurisdictional issue raised by the preliminary objections, primarily addressed the merits of this case. The court concluded that the Code did not prohibit the appellees from locating the proposed prison beyond the geographical boundaries of the Borough of Doylestown,
[ 80 Pa. Commw. Page 115]
and urged us to review this conclusion on appeal. However, the merits of this case are not properly before us at this stage of the proceedings; nor were they properly before the common pleas court. We must restrict our decision to the question of equity's jurisdiction over this matter, and now turn to that issue.
At all times relevant to this proceeding, Section 2315(b)*fn2 of the Code provided:
The county commissioners may provide, in accordance with this section, for the construction or alteration, including enlargement of a county court house, county jail, prison, workhouse, detention house and such other county buildings, as may be required or authorized by law. Such construction or alteration shall be done at the county seat or elsewhere as authorized by law. Whenever the county commissioners undertake any such construction or alteration, they shall cause to be prepared plans and specifications therefor, and shall submit such plans and specifications of any county court house, county jail, prison, workhouse or detention house as are approved by them to the judges of the court of common pleas for approval. If the said court, upon due consideration and such hearings and other measures as it may desire, approve the said plans and specifications as submitted or as modified, the county ...