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In the Matter of: Opening A v. (A) Hickory On the Green Homeowners

May 5, 2011

IN THE MATTER OF: OPENING A PRIVATE ROAD FOR THE BENEFIT OF TIMOTHY P. O'REILLY OVER LANDS OF (A) HICKORY ON THE GREEN HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, AND (B) MARY LOU SORBARA; GREGORY E. BURGUNDER; ANN E. CAIN; DON E. COTTRILL & NORMA J. COTTRILL, H/W; JOSEPH K. CUPPLES; BART V. DELCIMMUTO; JAMES D. DRAGOO & LINDA J. DRAGOO, H/W; KIMBERLY M. FONZI; BRIAN J. GALLAGHER & DIANE J. GALLAGHER, H/W; DOLORES M. GEMBAROSKY; MICHAEL J. GRALISH, JR. & VIRGINIA A. GRALISH, H/W; DIANE M. GIULIANA; JEFFERY W. HUTCHENS; DAVID B. KEITH & CHRISTINA A. KEITH, H/W; JOANNE B. KUCHINIC, TESTAMENTARY TRUST; HARRY J. LEE, JR.; JAY A. LEVY; S. GREG MALONE; JOSEPH V. MAZUR & KELLY L. POOLE; MARTIN MICKEY & MELISSA G. MICKEY, H/W; REGIS G. NIEDERBERGER & KATHLEEN C. NIEDERBERGER, H/W; GORDON J. ORR; ANNE M. PAUL; THOMAS G. PORTER; ROSEANNE E. PETRAGLIA; ERIC H. RITTENHOUSE & DANIELLE L. RITTENHOUSE, H/W; JOHN J. SAHLANEY; JEROME SCHMIER & CAROL FALO, H/W; JOHN R. SHAFER, TRUSTEE OR HIS SUCCESSORS IN TRUST, UNDER THE JOHN S. SHAFER LIVING TRUST, DATED NOVEMBER 20, 2001, AND JESSIE M. SHAFER, TRUSTEE, OR HER SUCCESSORS IN TRUST, UNDER THE JESSIE M. SHAFER LIVING TRUST, DATED NOVEMBER 20, 2001; MARCUS A SPATAFORE & KRISTIN C. BRAZELL; WILLIAM E. SPRECHER & MARCELLENE SPRECHER, H/W; AND FRANK J. SPRECHER & AGNES E. SPRECHER, H/W, LIFE ESTATE; ROXANNE M. SQUILLANTE; SUSAN C. STANKO; SHANAN R. STEWART; RICHARD H. SWEET & MARSHA A. SWEET, H/W; GREGORY TAYLOR; JOHN M. THOMAS; : THOMAS P. WAKIM & KIMBERLY L. : WAKIM, H/W; BETTY B. WILLIAMS & : LEON I. WILLIAMS (CO-TRUSTEES); : ROYCE D. VANDERPOOL; MELISSA J. : SCHILLER & MELANIE M. SCHILLER; JANET : ZEWE; FRANK A. BODNAR; KAREN R. : BILLINGHAM; BRADFORD R. JONES; : VIRGINIA L. KNAUS, TRUSTEE UNDER : QUALIFIED PERSONAL RESIDENCE TRUST : AGREEMENT, DATED JULY 27, 2000; : JOAN L. MASSELLA; DONNA DURKAN; : GERALDINE R. ALTENHOF; ELIZABETH BECK; : DARLENE A. TAYLOR; JAMES E. SPENCE & : KATHY F. SPENCE, H/W; LANCE D. MOLLER; : LINDY M. MCGEE; THE JUDITH F. : KOBLITZ TRUST; RICHARD E. MCNUTT & : HELENA A. MCNUTT, H/W; DOROTHY D. : WAGNER; SPITZIG LIVING TRUST AND : WILLIAM A. SPITZIG AND MARILYN J. : SPITZIG (TRUSTEES); SANDRA H. OCONNELL; : THOMAS C. SKENA; ZARAF MOSHIN; : PAUL W. AMIC & CAROLE L. AMIC, H/W; : MARGARET M. SHOWALTER; JAMES P. : FLANNERY & PATRICIA C. FLANNERY, H/W; : DEBORAH A. GERTZ; CAROL L. SCHARTNER; : JOHN A. UDISCHAS & SUSAN C. UDISCHAS, : H/W; DONNA M. BARTKO; KYLI J. MARTIN; : ROBERT J. GRIMM & JANA L. PHILLIS; : AMY R. SOLOMON; RICHARD M. BUCK & : BARBARA L. BUCK, H/W; ARLENE LIPTON; : WILLIAM G. EILER; CATHERINE M. SMITH; : DAWNA M. MAYDAK; MILDRED K. FINCKE; : MARGARET M. CORNELLIUS; CRAIG M. : DRINKHALL; RANDI BURDICK; ROBERT F. : MILLIGAN, JR. & MARILYN R. MILLIGAN, : H/W; RONALD G. BAUER & TERESA L. : BAUER, H/W; ANNA MARIE CIMAROLLI; : JOR R. PALMER & ANN D. PALMER, H/W; : JOHN WILLIAM MINNICH; JOSEPH J. : ASTORINO & MARILYN J. ASTORINO, H/W; : THOMAS S. PHILLIPS; CATHERINE E. TSAI; : NAOMI H. PATTON; STANLEY A. HACK & : CHRISTINE E. HACK, H/W; MICHAEL L. : HYNES & JANICE M. HYNES, H/W; : THOMAS E. DARABANT & FAYE C. : FLORIANI; WILLIAM J. GARRITY, SR. & : PATRICIA ANN GARRITY, H/W; ARCHIE L. : MCINTYRE; CLARENCE JOSEPH WELTER & : MARA WELTER, H/W; LISBETH A. DINEEN; : CHARLES W. FETROW & MARGARET A. : FETROW, H/W; KATHLEEN LYON; MARK A. : PETROZZA & DOROTHY M. PETROZZA, H/W; : JOHN R. ZECCHINO, AS THEIR INTEREST MAY : APPEAR : TIMOTHY P. O'REILLY :
v.
(A) HICKORY ON THE GREEN HOMEOWNERS : ASSOCIATION, AND (B) MARY LOU SORBARA; : GREGORY E. BURGUNDER; ANN E. CAIN; : DON E. COTTRILL & NORMA J. COTTRILL, : H/W; JOSEPH K. CUPPLES; BART V. : DELCIMMUTO; JAMES D. DRAGOO & : LINDA J. DRAGOO, H/W; KIMBERLY M. : FONZI; BRIAN J. GALLAGHER & DIANE J. : GALLAGHER, H/W; DOLORES M. : GEMBAROSKY; MICHAEL J. GRALISH, JR. & : VIRGINIA A. GRALISH, H/W; DIANE M. : GIULIANA; JEFFERY W. HUTCHENS; DAVID : B. KEITH & CHRISTINA A. KEITH, H/W; : JOANNE B. KUCHINIC, TESTAMENTARY : TRUST; HARRY J. LEE, JR.; JAY A. LEVY; : S. GREG MALONE; JOSEPH V. MAZUR & : KELLY L. POOLE; MARTIN MICKEY & : MELISSA G. MICKEY, H/W; REGIS G. : NIEDERBERGER & KATHLEEN C. : NIEDERBERGER, H/W; GORDON J. ORR; : ANNE M. PAUL; THOMAS G. PORTER; : ROSEANNE E. PETRAGLIO; ERIC H. : RITTENHOUSE & DANIELLE L. RITTENHOUSE, : H/W; JOHN J. SAHLANEY; JEROME SCHMIER : & CAROL FALO, H/W; JOHN R. SHAFER, : TRUSTEE OR HIS SUCCESSORS IN TRUST, UNDER : THE JOHN S. SHAFER LIVING TRUST, DATED : NOVEMBER 20, 2001, AND JESSIE M. : SHAFER, TRUSTEE OR HER SUCCESSORS IN : TRUST, UNDER THE JESSIE M. SHAFER LIVING : TRUST, DATED NOVEMBER 20, 2001; : MARCUS A SPATAFORE & KRISTIN C. : BRAZELL; WILLIAM E. SPRECHER & : MARCELLENE SPRECHER H/W; AND FRANK J. : SPRECHER & AGNES E. SPRECHER, H/W, : LIFE ESTATE; ROXANNE M. SQUILLANTE; : SUSAN C. STANKO; SHANAN R. STEWART; : RICHARD H. SWEET & MARSHA A. SWEET, : H/W; GREGORY TAYLOR; JOHN M. THOMAS; : THOMAS P. WAKIM & KIMBERLY L. : WAKIM, H/W; BETTY B. WILLIAMS & : LEON I. WILLIAMS (CO-TRUSTEES); : ROYCE D. VANDERPOOL; MELISSA J. : SCHILLER & MELANIE M. SCHILLER; JANET : ZEWE; FRANK A. BODNAR; KAREN R. : BILLINGHAM; BRADFORD R. JONES; : VIRGINIA L. KNAUS, TRUSTEE UNDER : QUALIFIED PERSONAL RESIDENCE TRUST : AGREEMENT DATED JULY 27, 2000; : JOAN L. MASSELLA; DONNA DURKAN; : GERALDINE R. ALTENHOF; ELIZABETH BECK; : DARLENE A. TAYLOR; JAMES E. SPENCE & : KATHY F. SPENCE, H/W; LANCE D. MOLLER; : LINDY M. MCGEE; THE JUDITH F. KOBLITZ : TRUST; RICHARD E. MCNUTT & HELENA A. : MCNUTT, H/W; DOROTHY D. WAGNER; : SPITZIG LIVING TRUST; SANDRA H. : OCONNELL; THOMAS C. SKENA; ZARAF : MOSHIN; PAUL W. AMIC & CAROLE L. : AMIC, H/W; MARGARET M. SHOWALTER; : JAMES P. FLANNERY & PATRICIA C. : FLANNERY, H/W; DEBORAH A. GERTZ; : CAROL L. SCHARTNER; JOHN A. UDISCHAS & : SUSAN C. UDISCHAS, H/W; DONNA M. : BARTKO; KYLI J. MARTIN; ROBERT J. GRIMM : & JANA L. PHILLIS; AMY R. SOLOMON; : RICHARD M. BUCK & BARBARA L. BUCK, : H/W; ARLENE LITON; WILLIAM G. EILER; : CATHERINE M. SMITH; DAWNA M. : MAYDAK; MILDRED K. FINCKE; : MARGARET M. CORNELLIUS; CRAIG M. : DRINKHALL; RANDI BURDICK; ROBERT F. : MILLIGAN, JR. & MARILYN R. MILLIGAN, : H/W; RONALD G. BAUER & TERESA L. : BAUER, H/W; ANNA MARIE CIMAROLLI; : JOR R. PALMER & ANN D. PALMER, H/W; : JOHN WILLIAM MINNICH; JOSEPH J. : ASTORINO & MARILYN J. ASTORINO, H/W; : THOMAS S. PHILLIPS; CATHERINE E. TSAI; : NAOMI H. PATTON; STANLEY A. HACK & : CHRISTINE E. HACK, H/W; MICHAEL L. : HYNES & JANICE M. HYNES, H/W; : THOMAS E. DARABANT & FAYE C. : FLORIANI; WILLIAM J. GARRITY, SR. & : PATRICIA ANN GARRITY, H/W; ARCHIE L. : MCINTYRE; CLARENCE JOSEPH WELTER & : MARA WELTER, H/W; LISBETH A. DINEEN; : CHARLES W. FETROW & MARGARET A. : FETROW, H/W; KATHLEEN LYON; MARK A. : PETROZZA & DOROTHY M. PETROZZA, H/W; : JOHN R. ZECCHINO, AS THEIR INTEREST MAY : APPEAR, : APPELLANTS



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

Argued: April 6, 2011

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge HONORABLE JOHNNY J. BUTLER, Judge

OPINION BY PRESIDENT JUDGE LEADBETTER

This case, on remand from our Supreme Court, involves a challenge to the constitutionality of the Private Road Act (PRA).*fn1 This case began when Timothy P. O'Reilly filed a Petition for the Appointment of a Board of Viewers pursuant to the PRA, for the purpose of creating a private road allowing access to a landlocked parcel he owns. The Hickory on the Green Homeowners Association (Association), along with numerous landowners and neighbors, filed preliminary objections to the petition, arguing that takings under the PRA were unconstitutional. The Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County overruled the objections, stating that the constitutionality of the PRA was well established. This court granted an interlocutory appeal and, in an en banc opinion, affirmed. See In re: Opening of Private Road for the Benefit of Timothy P. O'Reilly (O'Reilly I), 954 A.2d 57 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2008). Our Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further review. In re Opening Private Road for Benefit of O'Reilly (O'Reilly II), __ Pa. __, 5 A.3d 246 (2010). We now vacate the original common pleas opinion and remand for further proceedings.

As this appeal was taken after preliminary objections, the factual record is quite thin. O'Reilly's petition simply alleges that he owns a plot of land in South Fayette Township, Allegheny County, that is landlocked, and requested the appointment of a board of viewers to evaluate a proposed private road which would cross land owned by Mary Lou Sorbara and the Association. O'Reilly averred that Sorbara had no objection to the proposed road. The Association, however, along with much of its membership in their capacity as landowners in the development, filed preliminary objections, arguing, among other things, that the Act authorized takings that were unconstitutional under both the United States and Pennsylvania constitutions, because they were for private, not public, use.*fn2 As noted above, common pleas overruled the objections, and this court granted an interlocutory appeal and affirmed.

In affirming, this court offered a number of reasons that takings under the PRA were constitutional. First, we cited a long line of cases, starting with Wadell's Appeal, 84 Pa. 90 (1877), affirming the constitutionality of the PRA. However, we noted that the constitutionality of the PRA had been called into question by several recent decisions of our Supreme Court. Specifically, in Middletown Township v. Lands of Stone, 595 Pa. 607, 939 A.2d 331 (2007), the Court stated that:

"[A] taking will be seen as having a public purpose only where the public is to be the primary and paramount beneficiary of its exercise." In re Bruce Ave., 438 Pa. 498, 266 A.2d 96, 99 (1970). In considering whether a primary public purpose was properly invoked, this Court has looked for the "real or fundamental purpose" behind a taking. Belovsky v. Redevelopment Authority, 357 Pa. 329, 54 A.2d 277, 283 (1947). Stated otherwise, the true purpose must primarily benefit the public.

Id. at 617, 939 A.2d at 337. In addition, a plurality of our Supreme Court, in In re Forrester, 575 Pa. 365, 836 A.2d 102 (2003), stated:

The primary beneficiary of the opening of a private road is the private individual or entity who petitions for such relief. Granted, society as a whole may receive a collateral benefit when landlocked property may be accessed by motorized vehicles, and thus presumably be put to its highest economic use; yet, it cannot seriously be contended that the general population is the primary beneficiary of the opening of a road that is limited to the use of the person who petitioned for it. Thus, as the opening of a private road pursuant to the Act does not accomplish a public purpose, it cannot be seen as the exercise of the power of eminent domain.

Id. at 370-71, 836 A.2d at 106-07. In response to an argument made by the dissent, the Forrester plurality acknowledged that its holding might bring the constitutionality of the PRA into question, but declined to address the matter, saying it was not before the Court. Id. at 371, 836 A.2d at 106 n.4.

This court acknowledged these recent cases, but nevertheless found two reasons to uphold the PRA. First, after reviewing an extensive history of land grants in Pennsylvania, including colonial history, the court concluded that all land in the state was burdened with a 6% incorporeal burden, subject to seizure for use as public or private highways. In the alternative, the court held that seizures under the PRA had a public purpose because

[a]lthough the private property owner who petitioned for the private road certainly gains from the opening of the road, the public gains because otherwise inaccessible swaths of land in Pennsylvania would remain fallow and unproductive, whether to farm, timber or log for residences, making that land virtually worthless and not contributing to commerce or the taX base of this Commonwealth.

O'Reilly I, 954 A.2d at 72.

In reversing, our Supreme Court did not hold the PRA to be facially unconstitutional, but rather clarified the "public purpose" standard and remanded for further consideration of the pertinent facts under this standard. It began by noting that actions under the PRA are not exercises of the police power, but takings which ...


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