Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County in case of Josephine Storey, Braintrim Township and Wyalusing Area School District v. Susquehanna County Board of Assessment, No. 1985-292 C.P.
James E. Davis, for appellants.
Robert G. Dean, for appellee.
Judges MacPhail and Palladino, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Judge MacPhail dissents.
[ 109 Pa. Commw. Page 419]
Josephine Storey, Braintrim Township, and Wyoming County (collectively, the appellants)*fn1 appeal an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County (trial court) which dismissed their appeal from an order of the Susquehanna County Board of Tax Assessment (Board). The Board had concluded that the manor house on the property owned by Mrs. Storey, which property was situate partly in Wyoming County and partly in Susquehanna County, was to be taxed in 1985 and subsequent years by Susquehanna County
[ 109 Pa. Commw. Page 420]
pursuant to Section 608 of The Fourth to Eighth Class County Assessment Law (Law).*fn2
Mrs. Storey, a widow, has resided on the property concerned since August 1955 when she and her husband obtained title by virtue of a deed recorded in Wyoming County,*fn3 and taxes have been assessed against the property by Wyoming County since at least 1921. In 1985, however, Mrs. Storey received assessments from both Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties.*fn4 The Board, however, gave no notice of the Susquehanna County assessment to Wyalusing Area School District,*fn5 Braintrim Township, or Wyoming County, in contravention of Section 702(a) of the Law.*fn6 Mrs. Storey appealed this assessment to the Board, which, after a hearing on February 25, 1985, denied the appeal, again having given no notice of this action to Wyalusing Area School
[ 109 Pa. Commw. Page 421]
District, Braintrim Township, or Wyoming County. The appellants and Wyalusing Area School District thereafter appealed to the trial court, where hearings were held on September 26, 1985 and December 5, 1985, and the trial court received extensive evidence. The trial court thereafter concluded that their appeal was without merit.*fn7
Findings of the trial court on de novo review of a tax assessment appeal are, of course, entitled to great weight and will be disturbed only upon a finding of clear error. O'Merle v. Monroe County Board of Assessment, 95 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 141, 504 A.2d 975 (1986). The appellants contend here, however, that Susquehanna County failed to meet its burden of proof in order to overcome the historical evidence to the effect that Mrs. Storey's property should be taxed by Wyoming County. In support of this contention, they argue that the trial court erred in attributing "great weight" to the Commission Report of 1891 (Report of 1891) which established the boundary line between Lackawanna County and Susquehanna County.*fn8
Preliminarily, we note that the boundary line at issue here, which is the southern boundary of Susquehanna County, was first established by an act of the legislature in 1810 (Act of 1810), and we will adopt that ...