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ROBERTA (TRACY) STARK v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (06/12/85)

decided: June 12, 1985.

ROBERTA (TRACY) STARK, APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County in the case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Roberta (Tracy) Stark, No. S.A. 348 -- 82.

COUNSEL

Joseph Devaney, with him, Kenneth J. Powell, Jr., for appellant.

F. Kirk Adams, with him, Peter J. Rohana, Jr., for appellee.

Judges Craig and Colins and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 81]

Roberta Stark appeals an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County which denied her post-trial motion in arrest of judgment in an action convicting her of a violation of the Township of Ridley solicitation ordinance by failing to obtain the required license for door-to-door sale of goods.

In a trial de novo on appeal from her summary conviction, Stark challenged the reasonableness of the $150 annual fee for the license. We must determine whether Judge Diggins correctly concluded that the license fee was reasonable.*fn1

In Armour & Company v. City of Pittsburgh, 363 Pa. 109, 112-13, 69 A.2d 405, 407 (1949), the Supreme Court characterized a "license fee" as

     one exacted for the purpose of regulating an occupation or privilege which is deemed to be in need of public control, and, ordinarily, it is designed for the sole purpose of reimbursing the sovereign, in whole or in part, for the necessary expense of administering such control; if it exceeded the amount required for that purpose it would become a tax revenue and cease to be a valid license fee.

[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 82]

The party challenging the license fee has the burden of proving that it is not reasonable. Flynn v. Page 82} Horst, 356 Pa. 20, 51 A.2d 54 (1947). Municipalities are afforded reasonable latitude in fixing license fees to cover the cost of enforcement, and all doubts should be resolved in favor of the reasonableness of the fee. Commonwealth ex rel. Hines v. Winfree, 408 Pa. 128, 136-37, 182 A.2d 698, 703 (1962).

At trial, Stark presented evidence that the municipalities surrounding Ridley Township have significantly lower license fees -- none in excess of $35 per year. However, evidence of the license fees charged by surrounding municipalities is of no relevance to the reasonableness of the Ridley Township license fee, particularly in the absence of any evidence regarding the cost of administering and enforcing the solicitation ordinances in those other municipalities.

On the other hand, Ridley Township called its Manager and the Captain of the Township Police Department who testified that the number of hours required to administer and ...


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