This case involved a dispute regarding the condemnation of land in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  The Commonwealth Court was required to determine whether or not the owner of real property located in Holland was given adequate notice that its land would be condemned.  In affirming the trial court’s determination, the Commonwealth Court held that the owner had been given adequate notice.

Mill Race Inn, Ltd. (Mill Race) purchased the Holland property in 2005.  The property, which was built in 1787, was in disrepair due to severe storms between 1999 and 2001, as well as long periods of vacancy.  On April 16, 2013, Mill Race received a notice from Northampton Township (the township) that the property had been declared blighted pursuant to the Urban Redevelopment Law (URL).  This notice (the first notice) listed the reasons for the determination and informed Mill Race that it had thirty days to either fix the blighted conditions or appeal to the township’s zoning hearing board.  Mill Race initially filed an appeal but later withdrew.

On April 1, 2014, the township sent another notice (the second notice) to Mill Race, reiterating its earlier declaration and stating that Mill Race had taken no action to rectify the blighted conditions.  The second notice provided Mill Race with thirty days to do so.  After Mill Race failed to improve the property once again, the Redevelopment Authority of the County of Bucks (the Authority) filed a declaration to condemn the property.  Mill Race filed preliminary objections, but they were overruled.

On appeal, Mill Race contended that it was not given proper notice under the URL.  First, Mill Race argued that the first notice it received from the township was inadequate because it was titled “Violation Notice.”  Regardless of its title, however, the Commonwealth Court held that the first notice satisfied all of the requirements of the URL.  It listed the reasons for the blight determination and informed Mill Race that it had thirty days to either fix the blighted conditions or file an appeal.

Mill Race also attempted to argue that the second notice was a “notice to rehabilitate,” rather than a notice of the blighted conditions.  The court agreed with the Authority that the second notice reiterated the blight declaration and stated that Mill Race had not taken any action to remedy the situation.  Furthermore, the court noted that the township was only required to give Mill Race one notice of blighted conditions under the URL, but it decided to provide two.  Still, Mill Race failed to make any improvement between the first notice and the declaration for condemnation.

Click here to read: In re Condemnation of Land in Bucks Cnty., Pa., No. 1127 C.D. 2015 (Pa. Commw. Ct. June 14, 2016).

Edited by:

Bob Turchick, Law Clerk