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08/05/97 CONDEMNATION LANDS v. BIG SPRING SCHOOL

August 5, 1997

IN RE: CONDEMNATION OF LANDS, EASEMENTS AND RIGHTS-OF-WAY IN WEST PENNSBORO TOWNSHIP, CUMBERLAND COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, BY THE BIG SPRING SCHOOL DISTRICT FOR DEVELOPMENT, CONSTRUCTION, OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE OF PUBLIC SCHOOL FACILITIES; KENNETH E. ROCKEY
v.
BIG SPRING SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANT



Appealed From No. 2566 Civil 1990. Common Pleas Court of the County of Cumberland. Judge BAYLEY.

Before: Honorable James Gardner Colins, President Judge, Honorable Bernard L. McGINLEY, Judge, Honorable Doris A. Smith, Judge, Honorable Dan Pellegrini, Judge, Honorable Rochelle S. Friedman, Judge, Honorable James R. Kelley, Judge, Honorable Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, Judge. Opinion BY Judge Leadbetter. Dissenting Opinion BY Judge Friedman. President Judge Colins joins in this Dissent.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leadbetter

OPINION BY JUDGE LEADBETTER

FILED: August 5, 1997

Big Spring School District (School District) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County (trial court) denying the School District's petition to effect settlement of just compensation in an eminent domain proceeding.

On July 17, 1990, the School District filed a declaration of taking, thereby initiating condemnation proceedings regarding 17.411 acres of unimproved land owned by Kenneth E. Rockey (Rockey) in West Pennsboro Township, Cumberland County. On September 27, 1990, the School District tendered payment to Rockey of estimated just compensation in the amount of $51,000. Subsequently, the School District built an elementary school on the property. On February 21, 1995, over four and a half years after the taking, upon petition of the School District, a Board of View was appointed to ascertain just compensation.

Before the Board of View held the requisite hearings and filed its report, Edward L. Schorpp, Esquire, counsel for Rockey, *fn1 and Richard C. Snelbaker, Esquire, counsel for the School District, entered into written settlement negotiations. On June 7, 1995, Snelbaker wrote to Schorpp:

The Board of School Directors of the Big Spring School District has authorized me to make this last and final offer to settle the matter: the District will pay your client the total sum of $1,500 in full settlement of all matters arising from the eminent domain proceeding. . . provided that written acceptance of this proposal is received at our office by the close of business on Friday, June 16, 1995.

(R.R. at 120a.) On June 12, Schorpp responded:

Mr. Rockey has reluctantly agreed to resolve the outstanding issues by accepting the settlement set forth in your letter of June 7, 1995. I suspect that you will want a release from my client. Please forward that document and a check, and I will conclude matters to this end.

(R.R. at 121a.) On June 21, 1995, Snelbaker stated the following in a letter to Schorpp:

Based upon your letter of June 12, 1995, it appears that we have reached a settlement of the above matter subject to the District's appropriation of the balance of the settlement funds ($1,500). Unfortunately, the Board does not meet in public session until July 17, 1995 at which time the authorization will be on the agenda.

In the meantime and in anticipation of a favorable vote by the Board, I have prepared and enclose herewith three counterparts of a Release of Condemnee, two of which I request be signed by Mr. Rockey, witnessed by you personally, acknowledged and delivered to me in return for the check for $1,500.00 when available. I am sending this on to you so that you can obtain ...


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