Appeal from the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Elk County, Civil Division, at No. 84-189.
Thomas G. Wagner, St. Marys, for appellants.
David A. Whitney, Ridway, for appellees.
Brosky, Rowley and Popovich, JJ.
[ 359 Pa. Super. Page 179]
This is an appeal from the judgment of the trial court giving title to approximately one-half of the disputed property to appellees.
Two issues have been presented for our consideration: (1) whether an owner of a lot in a subdivision may acquire adverse possession of an abutting, undedicated street in the subdivision by planting grass on the street and improving and maintaining a driveway within the bed of the street; and (2) whether the statute of limitations tolled when the adverse possessor made an offer to buy the property from the true owner.
The trial court determined that the township failed to accept the dedication of the disputed strip and that it could therefore be acquired by adverse possession. We agree with this finding. However, the trial court further ruled that the appellees' acts satisfied the requirements of adverse possession. On this later determination we reverse. Appellees' conduct does not entitle them to legal title.
The disputed land was originally part of the Henry Ruehl Subdivision and was identified as Anne Street, on a 1952 plan recorded in the Office of the Recorder of Deeds of Elk County. Lot No. 32, immediately south of Anne Street, was purchased from Henry Ruehl by John Green, appellees' predecessor in 1956. Beginning in May of that year, Mr. Green began building his home and used Anne Street as an access to his lot and a parking area for his car. Between 1956 and 1967 Mr. Green began making improvements to the bed of Anne Street. This included planting grass, placing cinders and bricks on the surface to create a driveway and to facilitate travel, as well as parking his vehicles on the cindered roadway. At all times, Mr. Green knew that the disputed area had been laid out as a street. In 1967, he offered to purchase this parcel from the Henry Ruehl Estate. Instead, it was sold to appellants. After building a carport in 1968, Mr. Green used the strip less often for parking his cars but continued to use the cindered driveway. This driveway was also used by appellee's neighbors,
[ 359 Pa. Super. Page 180]
the Emmerts, and their visitors. The testimony revealed that Mr. Emmert removed snow from this portion with Mr. Green's permission. There is conflicting testimony as to whether the public in general traveled on this area.
In July 1980, Mr. Green filed a notice of adverse claim to the strip and soon after began paying property taxes on it. Mr. Green's tenants used the bed of Anne Street in a similar manner until 1983 when the house and his claim to the street were sold to appellees. In 1984, appellants sought to install a sewer line in this parcel. Appellees objected, claiming ownership of the property. This suit was filed by appellants to determine title.
The trial court determined that appellees established a claim of adverse possession to that portion of Anne Street comprising appellees' lawn and the part of the driveway that extended northerly from the cindered roadway to the ...