Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of DeWane A. Wivagg and Blanche E. Wivagg, his wife et al. v. Downtown McKeesport Business District Authority, GD 81-09329.
Mord C. Taylor, Jr., for appellants.
John J. Myers, for appellee.
Judges Craig, Barry and Colins. President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Rogers, Craig, MacPhail, Barry, Colins and Palladino. Opinion by Judge Barry.
[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 599]
This appeal arises from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County denying a request by several non-retail business persons and businesses (appellants) to enjoin the Downtown McKeesport Business District Authority (Authority) from implementing a Plan of Administrative Services (the plan) and from collecting the assessments imposed in connection with the plan's implementation.
The pertinent facts, as found by the trial court, indicate that the plan consists of a variety of services including promotional advertising, free parking programs and increased security. These services are to be undertaken by the Authority for the benefit of businesses located in downtown McKeesport. The plan, including the necessary assessments, was approved by the city council on September 3, 1980. On April 14, 1981, appellants filed an equity action in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County seeking to enjoin implementation of the plan on the grounds that it is not in compliance with the appropriate statutory requirements and it is unreasonable. After a hearing on the merits, the trial court dismissed the action and overruled the exceptions. This appeal followed.
Before we can reach the merits of this case, we must determine whether the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction. Although neither side has raised this issue, jurisdictional questions may be raised by an appellate court sua sponte. Lang v. Tax Review Board of City of Philadelphia, 69 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 525, 451 A.2d 1057 (1982).
We must first note that our courts have carefully drawn a distinction between "jurisdiction" as it refers
[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 600]
to the power of the court to enter into the inquiry and "equity jurisdiction", which refers only to the remedies available to the court. Where an adequate remedy at law exists the court merely lacks "equity jurisdiction." But where the legislature has provided an exclusive statutory remedy it has deprived the court of the power to inquire into the case in any manner other than the one specifically prescribed and, therefore, the court lacks jurisdiction. Lashe v. Northern York County School District, 52 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 541, 417 A.2d 260 (1980); Hoover v. Bucks County Tax Claim Bureau, 44 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 529, 405 A.2d 562 (1979).
Pa. R.C.P. No. 1509 provides as ...