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Steen v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

August 18, 2010

TERRY L. STEEN AND ANITA I. STEEN, HUSBAND AND WIFE, APPELLANTS
v.
PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE COMMISSION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: President Judge Leadbetter

SUBMITTED: May 19, 2010

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge, HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge, HONORABLE JOHNNY J. BUTLER, Judge.

OPINION

Terry L. Steen and Anita I. Steen (the Steens) appeal from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County denying the Steens' motion for post-trial relief from an order sustaining the preliminary objections of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (Commission) to the Steens' petition for appointment of viewers pursuant to Section 502(c) of the Eminent Domain Code (Code), 26 Pa. C.S. § 502(c). After review, we affirm.

The Steens owned four and a half acres of property abutting I-95 in Bristol Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The Steens also owned three outdoor advertising signs erected on the property. On August 7, 1987, the Steens sold the property to Mountain Ridge Enterprises, Inc. (Mountain Ridge). At the same time, the Steens executed an Easement Agreement with Mountain Ridge, which granted the Steens an easement over the property to access and maintain the outdoor advertising signs. The easement was recorded in the Office of the Recorder of Deeds of Bucks County on August 12, 1987. The Steens then sold the signs to Steen Advertising, Inc. and since 1987, have continuously leased their easement to Steen Advertising, Inc., in exchange for an annual fee.*fn1

The Easement Agreement by and between the Steens (Grantees) and Mountain Ridge (Grantor), provided the following:

1. Grantor hereby grants and conveys to Grantee . . . an easement over the property for the purpose of ingress and egress . . . to the Signs for the purpose of using, inspecting, maintaining, replacing and repairing, changing the advertising message, and all other related uses, of the Signs . . . .

2. The aforesaid easement includes the right of access and the right to have the Signs remain on the property being granted to the Grantee . . .

4. The Signs shall be located in the approximate area in which they are located on the date of this conveyance and these Signs shall remain the sole property of the Grantee despite the aforesaid conveyance of fee simple title to the Property by the Grantee to the Grantor.

5. The Grantee may sell, transfer, convey, and assign all of Grantee's right, title and interest in the Signs and in the rights created pursuant to this easement agreement.

13. If all of the property or material portion thereof is taken or condemned for a public or quasi-public use, to the extent that the Grantee may no longer maintain, use, or relocate the Signs within the Property, the easement granted and created hereby shall automatically terminate as of the date title to the condemned real estate vests in the condemnor, with the qualification that the foregoing shall apply only if Grantee is unable to relocate Grantee's Signs on the property . . . .

All proceeds and awards which may be payable as a result of the taking or condemnation of all or part of the Property shall belong to and be paid to the Grantor. Notwithstanding the foregoing, Grantee shall have the right to assert a separate claim for loss of the Signs if said condemnation results in the taking of the Signs or in the elimination of Grantee's access to the Signs. Pursuant thereto, Grantor and Grantee shall each file separate claims for condemnation damages.

Easement Agreement, R.R. at 32a-38a.

In March 2000, Mountain Ridge conveyed its interest in the property to Orange Hill, Inc. On June 27, 2007, the Commission filed a Declaration of Taking in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, seeking to condemn the property for the purpose of constructing the I-95 interchange project. The declaration of taking named Orange Hill, Inc., and Steen Advertising, Inc., as condemnees. It did not name the Steens individually. In December 2007, ...


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