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Condemnation by Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County v. Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

December 22, 2016

Condemnation by the Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County of Certain Land In Brownsville Borough, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, Being Property of: Alpha Financial Mortgage, Inc., its Successors, assigns, or any other person or Entity found to have interest in the property
v.
Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County Appeal of: Alpha Financial Mortgage, Inc. In the Matter of:Condemnation by the Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County of Certain Land in Brownsville Borough, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, Being Property of: Ernest E. Liggett and Marilyn Kostic Liggett
v.
Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County Appeal of: Alpha Financial Mortgage, Inc., Ernest E. Liggett and Marilyn Kostic Liggett, The Brownsville Group, Ltd. and Manor Investments, Ltd. In the Matter of:Condemnation by the Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County of Certain Land in Brownsville Borough, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, Being Property of: Brownsville Group, Ltd.
v.
Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County Appeal of: Alpha Financial Mortgage, Inc., Ernest Liggett and Marilyn Kostik Liggett, The Brownsville Group, Ltd. and Manor Investments, Ltd. In the Matter of: Condemnation by the Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County of Certain Land in Brownsville Borough, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, being property of: Manor Investments, Ltd.
v.
Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County Appeal of: Alpha Financial Mortgage, Inc., Ernest E. Liggett and Marilyn Kostik Liggett, The Brownsville Group, Ltd. and Manor Investments, Ltd.

          Argued: April 11, 2016

          BEFORE: HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge HONORABLE MICHAEL H. WOJCIK, Judge HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge

          OPINION

          PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge

         Alpha Financial Mortgage, Inc., Ernest E. Liggett and Marilyn Kostik Liggett, The Brownsville Group, Ltd., and Manor Investments, Ltd. (collectively, Condemnees) appeal from the July 31, 2015 order of the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County (trial court) sustaining the preliminary objections of the Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County (the Authority) to the Condemnees' petitions for appointment of viewers.

         Facts and Procedural History

         The underlying facts of this case are not in dispute. On June 3, 2009, the Authority filed declarations of taking with respect to numerous properties owned by Condemnees. The Authority submitted estimated just compensation payments to Condemnees, with the first payments commencing on October 18, 2010, and the final payments made as of February 6, 2012. On April 21, 2014, Condemnees filed separate petitions for appointment of viewers to ascertain just compensation for their condemned properties. On April 25, 2014, the Authority filed preliminary objections alleging that Condemnees' petitions for appointment of viewers were untimely filed and that Condemnees failed to name a necessary party pursuant to section 502(a)(4) of the Eminent Domain Code, 26 Pa.C.S. §502(a)(4). (Trial court op. at 1-2.)

         More specifically, the Authority alleged that, pursuant to section 19.2 of the Urban Redevelopment Law (URL), Act of May 24, 1945, P.L. 991, added by the Act of October 2, 2002, P.L. 796, 35 P.S. §1719.2, Condemnees only had one year from the last payment of estimated just compensation to bring an action challenging the same. Section 19.2 states that:

Notwithstanding the provisions of 42 Pa.C.S. §5526(4) (relating to five year limitation) or any other provision of law to the contrary, a proceeding to challenge just compensation or other damages if a redevelopment authority has exercised powers of condemnation pursuant to this act and made payment in accordance with section 407(a) or (b) of the act of June 22, 1964 (Sp.Sess., P.L. 84, No. 6), [1] known as the "Eminent Domain Code, " is subject to a one-year statute of limitations.

35 P.S. §1719.2. Regarding the necessary party, the Authority alleged that Condemnees failed to identify and join Andilnod, Inc., which had recorded a praecipe for lis pendens against Condemnees' properties in relation to a separate matter before the trial court. (Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 49a-51a.)

         Trial Court Opinion

         By opinion and order dated July 29, 2015, the trial court sustained the Authority's preliminary objections, finding that Condemnees' petitions for appointment of viewers were untimely filed. The trial court did not address the Authority's preliminary objection relating to failure to name a necessary party. The trial court rejected Condemnees' argument that the applicable statute of limitations was six years under section 5527(a) of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa.C.S. §5527(a), and that this section effectively superseded section 19.2 of the URL. Section 5527(a) provides as follows:

(i) If a condemnor has filed a declaration of taking, a petition for the appointment of viewers for the assessment of damages under 26 Pa.C.S. (relating to eminent domain) must be filed within six years from the date on which the condemnor first made payment in accordance with 26 Pa.C.S. § 307(a) or (b) (relating to possession, right of entry and payment of compensation).
(ii) If payment is not required to be made under 26 Pa.C.S. § 307(a) to obtain possession, a petition for the appointment of viewers must be filed within six years of the filing of the declaration of taking.
(2) If the condemnor has not filed a declaration of taking, a petition for the appointment of viewers for the assessment of damages under 26 Pa.C.S. must be filed within six years from the date on which the asserted taking, injury or destruction of the property occurred or could reasonably have been discovered by the condemnee.

42 Pa.C.S. §5527(a)(i)-(ii), (2).

         The trial court first noted that Condemnees do not point to any statutory text or legislative history evidencing an intent to repeal section 19.2 of the URL. The trial court stated that Condemnees were attempting to argue an implied appeal of this section, which the trial court noted is governed by section 1971 of ...


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