James E. Davis, Farr, Davis & Fitze, Tunkhannock, for appellants.
Robert G. Dean, Montrose, for appellee.
Barry and Smith, JJ., and Barbieri, Senior Judge. Barry, J., concurs in the result only.
[ 130 Pa. Commw. Page 181]
Appellants, Josephine Storey (Storey), Braintrim Township, Wyoming County and Wyalusing Area School District appeal from the January 11, 1989 order of the Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County which dismissed Appellants' 1985 tax appeal from tax assessment by the Susquehanna County Board of Assessment (Board) against property owned by Storey and previously taxed by Wyoming County since 1921.
Questions presented for review are whether the Board failed to meet its burden of proving that the property owned by Storey should be taxed in Wyoming County and not Susquehanna County; whether the trial court erred in relying in part on inadmissible hearsay evidence; whether the doctrine of equitable estoppel prevented the Board from imposing taxes on the Storey property after more than sixty years of taxation in Wyoming County; whether the trial court's decision should be reversed because of the Board's
[ 130 Pa. Commw. Page 182]
failure to give notice of its assessment of the property and of the tax appeal to Appellants; whether the Pennsylvania Constitution prevents a boundary line from being altered in a tax assessment appeal; and whether the action of the Board amounts to an improper annexation of property without due process of law.
The following facts are pertinent to the resolution of this case. Susquehanna County was created by an Act of the Legislature on February 22, 1810 (1810 Act). In this regard, the trial court notes that:
The southern line of Susquehanna County adjoins Lackawanna County on the east and forms the northern boundary of Lackawanna County. To the west of Lackawanna county, the southern boundary of Susquehanna County is also the northern boundary of Wyoming County.
January 16, 1986 Trial Court Opinion, p. 4. The 1810 Act provides that the southern line in Susquehanna County starts at a point due east from the head of Wyalusing Falls and continues east over to Wayne County. However, none of the current maps of Susquehanna County follow the southern boundary line as described in the 1810 Act. In 1842, a commission was appointed by the legislature on April 4, 1842, to establish Wyoming County from a part of Luzerne County (1842 Report). The commission's report shows the direction of the line separating Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties as 88 degrees, whereas the Susquehanna County map shows the direction of this line as being 82 degrees 15'. In 1891, another commission was formed to establish the disputed boundary line between Susquehanna and Lackawanna Counties which is to the east of Wyoming County. The 1891 Report was accepted by the Court of Common Pleas of both counties, thereby conclusively establishing the boundary between Susquehanna and Lackawanna Counties.
The property which is the subject of this dispute is owned by Storey by virtue of a conveyance by deed dated August 5, 1955 which was recorded in Wyoming County. The property is located partly in Braintrim Township, ...