In re Condemnation (Newport Homeowner’s Assn.),
873 A.2d 14 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005)
Seeking to extend its public sewer system into a planned residential community that had its own private sewer system, a municipal authority filed a declaration of taking to acquire by eminent domain a portion of the community’s sewer system as well as various easements for the associated land. The court of common pleas agreed with the objecting community’s homeowners association that neither the Municipality Authorities Act nor the Eminent Domain Code grants to a municipal authority the power to condemn a private sewer system for public use. The municipal authority appealed.
Reversing the lower court, the Commonwealth Court held that under Section 5607 and 5615(a)(1) of the Municipality Authorities Act, a municipal authority has the power to acquire private sewer systems or parts thereof and may do so by eminent domain, respectively. In addition, the Commonwealth Court held that in exercising its power of eminent domain, a municipal authority is not obligated to acquire a fee simple estate (all possible property rights) in the land associated with the interest it seeks to condemn. To the contrary, the court concluded, a municipal authority can condemn a lesser estate, such as a servient estate (e.g. an easement), as the municipal authority did here.
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