Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, in case of In Re: Request by Hempfield Township for Appointment of a Board of Viewers in regard to the property of Samuel Scott in the Route 30 West No. 1 Water District, No. 6561 of 1984.
Thomas J. Godlewski, with him, Daniel J. Hewitt, for appellant.
Dennis J. Gounley, with him, Emmett C. Boyle, Jr., for appellee, Samuel Scott.
Judges Craig and MacPhail, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 515]
Hempfield Township (Township), a second class township, appeals the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County (trial court), which sustained the preliminary objections of Samuel Scott, an owner of a certain property situate in the Township, and which dismissed the Township's petition for the appointment of a board of viewers to determine the benefit*fn1 to Scott's property from a municipal water line which had been installed across the front of the property.
[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 516]
By resolution of October 30, 1979, the Township Board of Supervisors (Board) created a water district, Route 30 West, No. 1 Water District, to provide municipal water service to an area encompassing Scott's property. This resolution provided that the water line would be installed by the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, but that the assessments to collect the installation costs would be made by the Township, purportedly under either the "front footage" method or the "benefit" method.
The Township subsequently resolved to utilize the "front footage" method and then filed an action in the common pleas court to enforce a municipal lien against Scott's property for the water line installation, calculated under the "front footage" method. A jury trial was held and the jury returned a verdict finding that, while Scott's property enjoyed a benefit because of the increase in its value caused by the installation of the water line, the property, nevertheless, is rural in character and, hence, not subject to a "front footage" assessment.*fn2 The Township did not appeal this verdict. Instead, the Board then resolved to assess Scott's property under the "benefits" method, and the Township then filed the petition for the appointment of a board of viewers from which the present appeal arises.
[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 517]
Scott preliminarily objected to the petition for the appointment of a board of viewers on the grounds that the Code expressly prohibits the Township from utilizing both assessment methods within the same water district, and also arguing that the doctrine of res adjudicata precluded relitigation of the assessment.*fn3
In reviewing the trial court's order, we must determine if any doubt exists as to whether or not the preliminary objections were properly sustained, resolving such doubt, if any, by overruling the said objections. Monti v. City of Pittsburgh, 26 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 490, 364 A.2d 764 (1976).
Before this Court, the Township contends that combining assessment methods within a single municipal service district is an accepted technique in this Commonwealth, relying on Whitemarsh Township Authority v. Elwert, 413 Pa. 329, 196 A.2d 843 (1964) and Bern Township Authority v. Hartman, 69 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 420, 451 A.2d 567 (1982). The Township acknowledges that these cases involved municipal authorities, but it nonetheless argues that the statutory language empowering ...