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APPEAL MUNICIPALITY PENN HILLS AND PENN HILLS SCHOOL DISTRICT FROM ACTION BOARD PROPERTY ASSESSMENT (08/17/88)

decided: August 17, 1988.

IN RE APPEAL OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF PENN HILLS AND PENN HILLS SCHOOL DISTRICT FROM THE ACTION OF THE BOARD OF PROPERTY ASSESSMENT, APPEALS AND REVIEW OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA ON PROPERTY OF U.S. STEEL CORP., UNIVERSAL ATLAS CEMENT CO. SITUATE IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF PENN HILLS, PROPERTY OWNED BY U.S. STEEL CORP., UNIVERSAL ATLAS CEMENT CO. APPEAL OF MUNICIPALITY OF PENN HILLS AND PENN HILLS SCHOOL DISTRICT


Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court entered January 9, 1987 at No. 3337 C.D. 1985, reversing the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division entered November 25, 1985 at No. GD 84-21857 Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala, Papadakos and Stout, JJ. Papadakos, J., files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Mcdermott

[ 519 Pa. Page 167]

OPINION

This appeal arises from the real estate tax assessment made by the Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review with regard to commercial property located in the Municipality of Penn Hills. This property was registered in the name of Universal Atlas Cement Company. However, the actual owner of the property was United States Steel Corporation. For tax year 1984 the Board assessed the property in the amount of $335,500.00.

On February 28, 1984, Penn Hills and the Penn Hills School District (hereinafter "Taxing Authorities") filed a timely appeal to this assessment with the Board. The appeal challenged the assessment on the grounds that the assessment was too low, in that it was based on a fair market value less than 25% of the actual value.

On March 30, 1984, U.S. Steel, approximately one month beyond the appeal period, sought leave to intervene in the appeal and filed with the Board a "Notice of Intervention". The notice did not indicate a reason for its intervention; nor was a specific challenge made to the assessment.

A hearing was scheduled before the Board for October 24, 1984. However, in the interim the Taxing Authorities, upon their independent evaluation, determined that the property was properly assessed, and therefore elected to withdraw their appeal. This fact notwithstanding, U.S. Steel notified the Board that it intended to proceed to the hearing and seek a reduction in the assessment.

The hearing was held, as scheduled, with only U.S. Steel in attendance. Shortly thereafter the Board rendered a Disposition of Appeal from the assessment, and issued a downward revision from the original assessment of $335,500.00 to an adjusted amount of $162,500.00.

An appeal from this action was taken by the Taxing Authorities to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. That appeal challenged the propriety of the Board's jurisdiction to entertain the claim of U.S. Steel

[ 519 Pa. Page 168]

    given the fact that they, as original appellants, had elected to voluntarily withdraw their appeal. In response U.S. Steel contended that once intervention was allowed the intervenor assumed the status of a proper party, with all attendant rights and liabilities; consequently, it was entitled to proceed with the appeal to seek a reduction in the assessment.

Following a conciliation conference on June 20, 1985, and submission of briefs by both sides, the lower court agreed with the Taxing Authorities, and held that the Board did not properly have jurisdiction once the original appellants withdrew their appeal. The court thereupon ordered reinstatement of the original assessment of $335,500.00.

On appeal the Commonwealth Court reversed this order and held that U.S. Steel did not lose its status as a party upon the withdrawal of the original appellants, 103 Pa. Commw. 121, 519 A.2d 1090 (1987). Consequently, the Board's revised assessment of $162,500.00 was reinstated. From this order the Taxing Authorities sought allowance of appeal, which was granted. For the reasons that follow we now affirm.

The primary issue in this case is whether an intervenor's ability to participate in the litigation of an appeal is dependent upon the status of the original appellant.

Intervention is a procedural tool by which a person not originally a party can participate in a given action. See Goodrich-Amram 2d ยง 2327.1. Generally, once intervention is allowed the intervenor is afforded all the rights of a party to the action, Taged, Inc. v. Zoning Board of Adjustment, 6 Pa. Commw. 331, 295 A.2d 339 (1972); Pa.R.Civ.P. 2230,*fn1 and unless otherwise specified an intervenor's right to participate in an appeal is not contingent upon ...


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