Springfield Twp. v. Halderman
840 A.2d 528 (Pa. Cmwlth 2004)
The landowner purchased property in 1994. The property was conveyed under a single deed; however, the deed included a legal description for two separate, but adjacent tracts of land. Subsequently, the landowner conveyed the two tracts to himself via two distinct deeds each containing the legal description of one tract. The Township filed a complaint that alleged the landowner had illegally subdivided the property.
The Township claimed that because the properties were adjacent and owned by the same landowner, the two tracts merged into one tract and could not be separated without the Township’s approval of a subdivision plan. The trial court agreed with the Township, relying on doctrine of merger. The Commonwealth Court reversed holding that the doctrine of merger is only applicable to non-conforming lots so as to combine the lots by operation of law to eliminate or reduce the nonconforming condition. Although one of the landowner’s tracts lacked adequate frontage to a public street, the Court held that it was not a non-conforming lot subject to the doctrine of merger because the Township’s ordinance defined “non-conforming lot” as a lot that fails to conform with area and dimensional requirements and the tract’s area conformed with the ordinance. Thus, because the property was not a non-conforming lot, the doctrine of merger did not apply. This meant that the two tracts remained separate and could be legally conveyed on separate deeds.
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