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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. DONALD & ANNE STEPPLER (03/09/88)

decided: March 9, 1988.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLANT
v.
DONALD & ANNE STEPPLER, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, in the case of Donald Steppler and Anne Steppler, his wife v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, No. 84-15364.

COUNSEL

J. Matthew Wolfe, Assistant Counsel, with him, Scott M. Olin, Assistant Counsel, Spencer A. Manthorpe, Chief Counsel, and Jay C. Waldman, General Counsel, for appellant.

Murray S. Eckell, with him, George D. Harwood, and Stephen J. Polaha, Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach & Monte, for appellees.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Colins, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Judges Craig, MacPhail, Doyle, Barry, and Palladino. Opinion by Judge Doyle. Judge Colins dissents.

Author: Doyle

[ 114 Pa. Commw. Page 301]

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (Department) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County dismissing its preliminary objections to Donald and Anne Steppler's petition alleging a de facto taking under Section 502(e) of the Eminent Domain Code (Code).*fn1 We reverse.

[ 114 Pa. Commw. Page 302]

The entire Steppler property is a 1.3 acre parcel containing a single family residential dwelling with a pool, located on Sproul Road in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The property was first acquired by Mr. Steppler's parents in 1946, with the Stepplers acquiring title in 1974.

In December, 1968, the Governor of Pennsylvania approved plans for the construction of Legislative Route 1010 (commonly known as the Blue Route),*fn2 which would connect the Pennsylvania Turnpike with Interstate 95. These plans were recorded in August 1969 and show that a small triangular portion of the Stepplers' backyard (approximately 28' x 83' x 88'; .032 of an acre in area) would be required for the right-of-way. The highway as it goes behind the property generally is elevated between two and twenty-five feet above the ground by means of either a viaduct or fill.*fn3 It is unclear whether the specific portion of the highway on the Stepplers' property would also be elevated. These preliminary plans also do not indicate whether sound barriers would be constructed along this portion of the road.*fn4 The only work the Department did on the Stepplers' property occurred in 1975 when it placed stakes on that portion of the property actually required for the highway.

[ 114 Pa. Commw. Page 303]

The Stepplers first attempted to sell their home in July, 1981 when a realtor made up sales brochures and placed the property in multiple listing. The initial asking price was $135,000. This figure was lowered twice in a six month period, first to $129,500, and then to $119,900. No offers to buy the property were received.

In January, 1982, the Stepplers listed the property with a second realtor, who also placed the property in multiple listing. During 1982, the asking price remained at $119,500, but in 1983 the Stepplers raised it to $122,000. The property was shown ten times during 1983, but again no offers were received.

The Stepplers went to yet a third realtor, who again placed the property in multiple listing and also conducted "open house" days in order to market the property. This time the Stepplers asking price ...


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