Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County in the case of Township of Leacock v. Jonathan G. King and Sarah S. King, No. 1464-1987.
Jeffrey A. Ernico, Tive, Hetrick & Pierce, P.C., for appellants.
Frank J. Vargish, III, Blakinger, Byler & Thomas, P.C., for appellee.
Judges Barry, Colins and McGinley, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Colins.
[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 533]
This case involves the determination of whether the demolition of Jonathan and Sarah King's (appellants) property is the proper means of abating a public nuisance.
[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 534]
Appellants' property is located at 188 Maple Street, Gordonville, Pennsylvania, and consists of an uninhabited, two-story frame building on a lot of approximately 13,000 square feet. On May 6, 1987, the Township of Leacock (Township) filed a complaint against appellants charging that their property constituted a public nuisance in violation of Section 2 of the Township's nuisance ordinance.*fn1 Appellants failed to answer the Township's complaint, however, and a Judgment of Default was entered against appellants on June 18, 1987, pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 1511(a).
On August 5, 1987, a hearing was held for the purpose of framing a final decree, pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 1511(b). At this hearing, testimony was presented concerning complaints which the Township had received over several years regarding the dilapidated condition of appellants' premises. The testimony presented by the
[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 535]
Township officials, who conducted an inspection of appellants' property, revealed that portions of the building were boarded-up because it constituted a safety hazard to children, upstairs portions of the building were rotted out, the premises lacked water and a functioning sewer system, the plumbing fixtures were rusted through, the doors and windows of the building were largely missing, there was evidence of rats on the premises, and the yard was overgrown with weeds. The Township also presented an expert at the hearing who testified that the cost to remodel appellants' building would be approximately $70,000.00. The expert testified that this cost was equivalent to actually rebuilding a whole new structure on the property. Appellant, Jonathan King, also testified at this hearing. Mr. King testified that he was in bankruptcy and, as of the day of the hearing, he had not begun any structural repairs to his building, nor had he obtained any written estimates concerning the cost of remodeling.
Following this hearing, the Chancellor viewed appellants' premises. As a result of this viewing, an interim decree was entered on August 11, 1987, which ordered appellants to repair their property and to bring it "up to the standard of the general neighborhood" within a 4-month period.*fn2
Upon motion by appellee, a supplemental hearing was held on January 20, 1988. Testimony was presented at this hearing which detailed the repairs, which to that point, had been made to appellants' property. According to this testimony, the weeds and vegetation in the yard were cut, the exterior of the property was painted, the broken windows ...