Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Bucks County; Honorable George T. Kelton, Judge.
Donald B. McCoy, Newtown, for appellant.
Miriam Reimel, Bristol, for appellee.
Doyle and McGinley, JJ., and Narick, Senior Judge.
[ 130 Pa. Commw. Page 243]
Bristol Township Water Authority (BTWA) appeals from an order of the Chancellor of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County (common pleas court) denying BTWA's posttrial motions and entering a final decree permanently enjoining BTWA from extending its water service into a narrowly defined service area within Bristol Township already serviced by appellee Lower Bucks County Joint Municipal Authority (Lower Bucks).
Lower Bucks, a public water and sewer authority, was organized in 1952 under the Municipality Authorities Act of 1945 (Act), Act of May 2, 1945, P.L. 382, 53 P.S. §§ 301-322, jointly by Bristol Township and the Borough of Tullytown. Lower Bucks operates its own water supply system and provides water and sewer services in Tullytown Borough and portions of the townships of Bristol, Middletown and Falls in Bucks County. BTWA, also a municipal water authority organized pursuant to the Act, was incorporated on June 6, 1986.
Since 1961, Lower Bucks has provided water service to three areas of Bristol Township. The provision of this service is the subject of this dispute. The properties involved are known as the Keystone Garden Apartments, a 617 unit apartment complex; a shopping center known as Bristol Plaza; and a housing subdivision known as Tanglewood, in Middletown Township north of Bristol Plaza.
In September 1987, BTWA Solicitor Donald B. McCoy met and spoke with certain principals of Keystone Garden Apartments for the purpose of soliciting the apartments' water business for BTWA. Also, the Bristol Township Council had mandated that as a condition for final approval of the shopping center at Bristol Plaza, the owners or users must purchase water and water service from BTWA and
[ 130 Pa. Commw. Page 244]
obtain public water connection permits through that authority. Further, under the direction of Bristol Township, BTWA is prepared to and intends to take all actions necessary to serve the Bristol Plaza Shopping Center.
However, Lower Bucks has provided water service to these areas since 1961 and there has never been a complaint filed by any of the involved customers pursuant to the Act questioning either rates or service. Over the years that Lower Bucks has served Bristol Plaza and Keystone Gardens, Lower Bucks has maintained the water lines, kept them clean, repaired breaks where necessary, maintained and repaired the hydrants and done all other work necessary to keep the lines in operating condition.
On December 17, 1987, Lower Bucks filed a complaint in equity in the common pleas court seeking to enjoin BTWA under Section 4 A(b)(2) of the Act, 53 P.S. § 306 A(b)(2) from interfering with or duplicating water service in the disputed area already served by Lower Bucks.
After a June 6, 1988, hearing, which upon agreement of both parties, the common pleas court treated as a final hearing rather than a hearing on a preliminary injunction, the common pleas court enjoined BTWA from extending its water service into the narrowly defined service area (Keystone Garden Apartments, Bristol Plaza, and Tanglewood) already served by Lower Bucks.
Both BTWA and Lower Bucks filed motions for post-trial relief. The common pleas court subsequently denied both ...