This blog features case law related to real estate, land use, zoning, and municipal law in Pennsylvania

Category: Real Estate (Page 1 of 5)

Municipalities Not Immune from Adverse Possession Claims

In a property dispute between the City of Philadelphia and Francis Galdo, the Commonwealth Court ruled that the City of Philadelphia is not immune from claims of adverse possession where it is simply holding property for possible future sale.  This dispute centers upon a small, rectangular piece of undeveloped land that was condemned by the City in 1974 on behalf of the Commonwealth in relation to the construction of Interstate 95. Galdo purchased a property across the street from the property in 1989 and began using it for storage, parties, and parking.  Galdo made a variety of improvements to the property over the years: pouring concrete slabs, installing and (later) removing a fence, installing storage trailers, building a fire pit/brick barbeque and pavilion, and creating a volleyball court, horseshoe pits, and a treehouse.  In 2014 the City filed an ejectment action against Galdo, who responded with a counterclaim to quiet title, claiming ownership by adverse possession.  The trial court ruled in favor of the City, concluding Galdo could not claim title to the Property because the City had condemned the property at the behest of the Commonwealth, and because claims of adverse possession cannot lie against the Commonwealth or its agents, and the Property was devoted to public use.

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DEP Interpretation of Clean Streams Law to Allow Continuing Violations by Polluters Found Unreasonable

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court was presented with an appeal from a determination by the Commonwealth Court pursuant to a declaratory judgment action filed by EQT Production Company (“EQT”).  EQT requested a determination regarding the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (“DEP”) interpretation of the Clean Streams Law to allow the imposition of ongoing penalties against polluters, following a single release of pollutants into the waters of the Commonwealth, for each day that those contaminants remain in the subsurface soil and passively enter groundwater and surface water.  DEP offered two theories of liability to support its position.  Under the first (the soil-to-water migration theory) DEP argued industrial waste pollutants could perch above an aquifer and continually pollute new groundwater as water flows through the polluted soil and over time move into uncontaminated areas.  The second theory (the water-to-water theory) asserted new infractions occurred as contaminants spread from discrete bodies of water into new regions of water.  EQT conversely, argued that a violation only occurred upon the actual discharge of pollutants into a body of water, and not the continued presence of those pollutants in the water.

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Commonwealth Court Holds That Homeowners’ Association Had Authority to Regulate “Tigger” Mailbox

In this “over-litigated case,” the Commonwealth Court was asked to determine if a homeowners’ association had the authority to require the removal of a mailbox that homeowners had not gotten approval to install.  The court determined that the association could require the mailbox’s removal, as it was a structure under the terms of the association’s Declaration and Guidelines.

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Commonwealth Court Found That It Was Necessary to Open Private Road to Public Use After Applying Pennsylvania’s Private Roads Act

The Commonwealth Court was required to construe Pennsylvania’s Private Road Act to determine whether or not a private road should be opened for public use.  In holding that it should be opened, the court found that the petitioner’s property was landlocked and that the road would serve a public purpose.

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