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TOWNSHIP CONNOQUENESSING v. TOWNSHIP BUTLER (04/09/85)

decided: April 9, 1985.

TOWNSHIP OF CONNOQUENESSING, A TOWNSHIP OF THE SECOND CLASS, APPELLANT
v.
TOWNSHIP OF BUTLER, A TOWNSHIP OF THE FIRST CLASS, ET AL., APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Butler County in case of Township of Connoquenessing, a Township of the Second Class v. Township of Butler, a Township of the First Class; Victor V. Scott and Lorene A. Scott, his wife; William R. Olenic and Beverly Jean Olenic, his wife; Joseph A. Phillips; Norbert S. Cronin and Marie T. Cronin, his wife; Thomas W. Roe and Shirley J. Roe, his wife, No. 83-015, Book 123, Page 15.

COUNSEL

Charles F. Flach, III, Murrin, Murrin & Taylor, for appellant.

Bruno A. Muscatello, Stepanian & Muscatello, for appellee, Township of Butler.

Judges Craig, Colins and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig. Judge Palladino dissents.

Author: Craig

[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 531]

Connoquenessing Township appeals from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Butler County, which dismissed a declaratory judgment action Connoquenessing had brought against Butler Township

[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 532]

    seeking the invalidation of a contract the two townships had executed to fix a boundary between the two townships. We must determine whether the trial court properly concluded that the result of that contract cannot now be undone.

On August 15, 1977, Connoquenessing, a second class township, and Butler, a first class township, entered into an agreement which purported to fix a boundary between the two townships that had, according to the agreement, "been subject to dispute"; the alleged dispute concerned a relatively small area, approximately 1800 feet by 500 feet. The apparent effect of the agreement was to include in Butler Township property which formerly had been in Connoquenessing Township. There was no referendum on the matter, and, although the townships recorded the contract in the Butler County recorder's office, they did not submit it to the court of common pleas for approval.

Connoquenessing filed a declaratory judgment action in January, 1983, seeking the invalidation of the contract on the ground that the townships were without power to alter the boundary lines by agreement. Judge Brydon, relying on our Collier Township decisions,*fn1 concluded that the initiative and referendum procedure is now the only vehicle available for changing municipal boundaries, and therefore further concluded that the townships had been without authority to enter into their agreement. However, the trial court applied the doctrine of equitable estoppel to bar Connoquenessing's attempt to repudiate the contract; accordingly, it dismissed the declaratory judgment action and affirmed the townships' agreement.

[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 533]

Connoquenessing contends that the case is not a proper one for the application of equitable estoppel and that, because the townships were without legal ground to alter their boundaries or arrange an annexation, we should declare the contract void.*fn2

However, as the contract itself recites, this case originated as a "boundary dispute"; Judge Brydon expressly found that the purpose was "to resolve potential conflicts. . . ." Therefore, it differs qualitatively from an invalid attempt at annexation. The First Class Township Code provides, in section 302, Act of June 24, 1931, P.L. 1206, as amended, 53 P.S. § 55302, a method for the resolution of boundary disputes outside the initiative and referendum process. The same provision appears in The Second Class Township Code at section 302, Act of May 1, 1933, P.L. 103, as amended, 53 P.S. § 65302.*fn3

The trial court apparently interpreted the decisions of this court as invalidating those sections. In Middle Paxton Township v. Borough of Dauphin, 10 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 431, 308 A.2d 208 (1973), aff'd 458 Pa. 396, 326 A.2d 342 (1974), we concluded that the legislature's failure to meet the two-year deadline of the 1968 Pennsylvania Constitution (for the establishment of uniform legislation setting forth "the ...


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