Appeal from Philadelphia County Common Pleas Court, Honorable Nelson A. Diaz, Judge.
Melvin Alan Bank, Bank, Minehart & D'Angelo, Philadelphia, for appellants.
Marjorie Stern Jacobs, Divisional Deputy City Sol., Lawrence W. Lindsay, Asst. City Sol., Philadelphia, for appellee.
Doyle and Colins, JJ., and Barbieri, Senior Judge.
Andorra Associates and its assignees (appellants) appeal a May 9, 1988, order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County which awarded the appellants $38,500.00*fn1 for the condemnation of .429 acres of the Andorra Shopping Center by the City of Philadelphia (appellee) for the widening of Port Royal Street near Henry Avenue. We vacate and remand.
The appellee filed its declaration of taking on January 16, 1979, and at that time tendered the appellants Thirty-eight Thousand Dollars ($38,000.00) as an estimate of just compensation. Appellants filed a Petition for Appointment of a Board of View (Board). The Board awarded the substantially greater amount of $263,300.00. The appellee's appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County was assigned to Judge William Marutani for a determination of the highest and best possible use, with the stipulation that
valuation would be determined at a later hearing. However, Judge Marutani entered an order holding that the appellants' method of valuation was improper and ordered it to obtain new appraisals. When Judge Marutani retired prior to entering a final order, the case was assigned to Judge Nelson Diaz. Judge Diaz ruled that he was bound by Judge Marutani's decision that the appellants' method of valuation was improper and awarded the appellant $38,500.00 based on his understanding of the theory of highest and best possible use. This appeal followed.
The appellants argue that Judge Diaz erred in following Judge Marutani's decision that their method of valuation was improper and, further, that the award of $38,500.00 was inadequate based on the theory of highest and best possible use.
Our scope of review in an eminent domain case is limited to determining whether the trial court abused its discretion or committed an error of law. Redevelopment Authority of Union County v. Property Located in West Milton on Route 254 at the Old Reading Railroad Station, 101 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 634, 517 A.2d 210 (1986). A party whose land is taken for a public use is entitled to just compensation.*fn2 Just compensation is the difference between the fair market value of the condemnee's entire property interest immediately before the condemnation, and as unaffected thereby, and the fair market value of his property interest remaining immediately after such condemnation.*fn3 Fair market value of the land has traditionally been determined by considering the land's highest and best possible use.*fn4 To prove highest and best possible use, a condemnee must establish that the land in question is physically adaptable to such use and that there is a need for such use in the area which is reflected in the market for the property at the time of condemnation. County of Luzerne v. Ceccoli, 75 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 486, 462 A.2d 354
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(1983). With this in mind, we are asked to determine if $38,500.00 was an adequate award for the taking of about one-half ...