Judges Opinions Public Notices, — January 6, 2021 11:03 — 0 Comments

Public Notices, January 6, 2021

Volume 58, No. 23

 

PUBLIC NOTICES

DECEDENTS’ ESTATES

CHANGE OF NAME (2)

NOTICE TO DEFEND

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Boone County Two LLC (CVS Tenant) v. Lebanon County Board of Assessment Appeals

 

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that Letters Testamentary or of Administration have been granted in the following estates. All persons indebted to the said estate are required to make payment, and those having claims or demands to present the same without delay to the administrators or executors named.

 

FIRST PUBLICATION

 

ESTATE OF MARY ANN SNAVELY, late of Jackson Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executor.

Jeffrey W. Shott, Executor

6944 Sandleford Way

San Diego, CA 92139

 

Edward J. Coyle, Esquire

Buzgon Davis Law Offices

P.O. Box 49

525 South Eighth Street

Lebanon, PA 17042

 

ESTATE OF GLORIA SCHWARTZ, late of Cornwall Borough, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters of Administration have been granted to the undersigned Administrator.

 

Jeffrey A. Schwartz, Administrator

 

Jeffrey C. Goss, Esquire

Brubaker Connaughton Goss & Lucarelli LLC

480 New Holland Avenue, Suite 6205

Lancaster, PA 17602

 

ESTATE OF CHARLES E. MCQUATE, late of South Londonderry Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executors.

Jay G. Stohler

Joann M. Stohler

8690 Jonestown Road

Grantville, PA 17028

Executors

 

Scott L. Grenoble, Esquire

Buzgon Davis Law Offices

P.O. Box 49

525 South Eighth Street

Lebanon, PA 17042

 

ESTATE OF KATHARINE M. JANES, late of North Londonderry Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, died 11/28/2020. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executor.

Daniel M. Ashby, Executor

 

George W. Porter, Esquire

909 E. Chocolate Ave.

Hershey, PA 17033

 

ESTATE OF ANNETTE L. ADAMS, late of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executors.

Debra A. Firestone, Executrix

165 Racehorse Drive

Jonestown, Pa 17038

 

Pattie L. Maulfair, Executrix

400 S. Center St.

Jonestown, PA 17038

 

Paul W. Kilgore, Esquire

Spitler, Kilgore & Enck, PC

522 South 8th Street

Lebanon, PA 17042

Attorney

 

SECOND PUBLICATION

 

ESTATE OF JOSUE D. ENTRIALGO, late of South Londonderry Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters of Administration have been granted to the undersigned Administratrix.

Esther Wolfe, Administratrix

 

Kevin M. Richards, Esquire

P.O. Box 1140

Lebanon, PA 17042-1140

 

ESTATE OF SHIRLEY J. BOLTZ, late of South Londonderry Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, died 12/09/2020. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executrix.

Debra K. Boltz, Executrix

 

George W. Porter, Esquire

909 E. Chocolate Ave.

Hershey, PA 17033

 

ESTATE OF JOHN R. BALITCHIK, late of Palmyra Borough, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executrix.

Lara J. Balitchik, Executrix

625 N. Railroad Street

Palmyra, PA 17078

 

Edward J. Coyle, Esquire

Buzgon Davis Law Offices

P.O. Box 49

525 South Eighth Street

Lebanon, PA 17042

 

ESTATE OF RICHARD D. HUMMEL, late of Jackson Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executrix.

Kathy Zohner, Executrix

150 Border Lane

Hershey, PA 17033

 

Edward J. Coyle, Esquire

Buzgon Davis Law Offices

P.O. Box 49

525 South Eighth Street

Lebanon, PA 17042

 

ESTATE OF LINDA L. FARST, late of South Lebanon Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executor.

Douglas A. Farst, Executor

102 Shady Lane

Palmyra, PA 17078

 

David R. Warner, Esquire

Buzgon Davis Law Offices

P.O. Box 49

525 South Eighth Street

Lebanon, PA 17042

 

ESTATE OF KEVIN E. THOMSEN, late of Jackson Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters of Administration have been granted to the undersigned Administrator.

Alice G. Thomsen, Administrator

55 Scenic Drive

Myerstown, PA 17067

 

Kenneth C. Sandoe, Esquire

Steiner & Sandoe

36 West Main Avenue,

Myerstown, PA, 17067

 

ESTATE OF TAKEHIKO DOHI, late of South Londonderry Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters of Administration have been granted to the undersigned Administratrix.

Noriko Dohi, Administratrix

 

  1. Ralph Godfrey, Esquire

Kelly, Parker, & Cohen, LLP

1250 North Mountain Road

Suite 9

Harrisburg, PA 17112

 

ESTATE OF BARBARA A. BRUNGART, late of the City of Lebanon, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters of Administration have been granted to the undersigned Administrator.

Pauline M. Sweitzer, Administrator

 

Jon F. Arnold, Esquire

410 Chestnut Street

Lebanon, PA 17042

 

ESTATE OF BROCK L. HOWER, late of the City of Lebanon, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, died October 1, 2020. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executor.

Scott W. Harman, Executor

3 Hilltop Drive

Grantville, PA 17028

 

Jean D. Seibert, Esquire

Caldwell & Kearns, PC

3631 North Front Street

Harrisburg, PA 17110

 

THIRD PUBLICATION

 

ESTATE OF JOAN GOVAN, late of North Londonderry Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, died 12/09/2020. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executrix.

Jane G. Robertson, Executrix

 

George W. Porter, Esquire

909 E. Chocolate Ave.

Hershey, PA 17033

 

ESTATE OF ALEXANDER N. GINNETTO, JR., late of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executor.

Gary L. Hoke, Executor

735 Glenwood Street

Lebanon, PA 17046

 

Paul W. Kilgore, Esquire

Spitler, Kilgore & Enck, PC

522 South 8th Street

Lebanon, PA 17042

 

ESTATE OF ROSENE M. DUFFY, late of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executrix.

Renee E. Duffy, Executrix

910 Lantern Drive

Lebanon, PA 17067

 

Paul W. Kilgore, Esquire

Spitler, Kilgore & Enck, PC

522 South 8th Street

Lebanon, PA 17042

 

ESTATE OF BETTIE A. GIBBLE, late of West Cornwall Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executor.

Jean Bomberger, Executor

 

Young & Young

44 South Main Street

P.O. Box 126

Manheim, PA 17545

 

ESTATE OF JOAN Z. MAULFAIR, late of South Londonderry Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executor.

Joel Maulfair, Executor

 

Keith D. Wagner

P.O. Box 323

Palmyra, PA 17078

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHANGE OF NAME (1)

 

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that on October 15, 2020, the Petition of Leslie Alicea regarding the minor child, J.C.M. was filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, to Civil Action No. 2020-01196, praying for a decree to change the name of J.C.M. to J.C.A.

The Court has fixed the 19th day of January, 2021, at 1:30 P.M., in Courtroom No. 1, of the Municipal Building, 400 South Eighth Street, Lebanon, Pennsylvania, as the time and place for the hearing of said Petition, when and where all persons interested may appear and show cause, if any they have, why the prayer of said Petition should not be granted.

 

FEEMAN LAW OFFICES

  1. SCOT FEEMAN

Attorney I.D. No. 80052

815 Cumberland Street, Suite 200

Lebanon, PA 17046

Telephone No.: (717) 273-1763

Fax No.: (717) 222-5337

rsfeeman@feemanlaw.com

 

 

CHANGE OF NAME (2)

 

I: Whitney Martin, resident of Lebanon, hereby declare that the name Whitney Ann Martin has been changed to Whitney Ann Taylor as of January 15th, 2021, at 1:30 p.m. in courtroom No. 2 before Judge Samuel A. Kline.

 

Whitney Martin

45B West Main Street

Annville, PA 17003

 

 

 

 

 

NOTICE TO DEFEND

 

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS

Lebanon COUNTY

CIVIL ACTION – LAW

ACTION OF MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE

Term No. 2020-01120

NOTICE OF ACTION IN MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE

THE BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON, F/K/A THE BANK OF NEW YORK AS TRUSTEE FOR REGISTERED

HOLDERS OF CWABS, INC., ASSET-BACKED CERTIFICATES, SERIES 2006-23

Plaintiff

vs.

UNKNOWN HEIRS OF MARY LYNN FIELDS DECEASED

Mortgagor and Real Owner

Defendant

 

UNKNOWN HEIRS OF MARY LYNN FIELDS DECEASED, MORTAGOR AND REAL OWNER, DEFENDANT whose last known address is 138 Julia Lane Lebanon, PA 17042.

THIS FIRM IS A DEBT COLLECTOR AND WE ARE ATTEMPTING TO COLLECT A DEBT OWED TO OUR CLIENT. ANY INFORMATION OBTAINED FROM YOU WILL BE USED FOR THE PURPOSE OF COLLECTING THE DEBT.

You are hereby notified that Plaintiff THE BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON, F/K/A THE BANK OF NEW YORK AS TRUSTEE FOR REGISTERED HOLDERS OF CWABS, INC., ASSET-BACKED CERTIFICATES, SERIES 2006-23, has filed a Mortgage Foreclosure Complaint endorsed with a notice to defend against you in the Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, docketed to No. 2020-01120 wherein Plaintiff seeks to foreclose on the mortgage secured on your property located, 138 Julia Lane Lebanon, PA 17042 whereupon your property will be sold by the Sheriff of Lebanon.

 

N O T I C E

 

You have been sued in court. If you wish to defend against the claims set forth in the following pages, you must take action within twenty (20) days after the Complaint and notice are served, by entering a written appearance personally or by attorney and filing in writing with the court your defenses or objections to the claims set forth against you. You are warned that if you fail to do so the case may proceed without you and a judgment may be entered against you by the Court without further notice for any money claim in the Complaint of for any other claim or relief requested by the Plaintiff. You may lose money or property or other rights important to you.

YOU SHOULD TAKE THIS PAPER TO YOUR LAWYER AT ONCE. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A LAWYER OR CANNOT AFFORD ONE, GO TO OR TELEPHONE THE OFFICE SET FORTH BELOW. THIS OFFICE CAN PROVIDE YOU WITH INFORMATION ABOUT HIRING A LAWYER.

IF YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO HIRE A LAWYER, THIS OFFICE MAY BE ABLE TO PROVIDE YOU WITH INFORMATION ABOUT AGENCIES THAT MAY OFFER LEGAL SERVICES TO ELIGIBLE PERSONS AT A REDUCED FEE OR NO FEE.

 

MID-PENN LEGAL SERVICES

513 Chestnut Street

Lebanon, PA 17042

717-274-2834

 

Michael T. McKeever

Attorney for Plaintiff

KML Law Group, P.C., PC

Suite 5000, BNY Independence Center

701 Market Street

Philadelphia, PA 19106-1532

215-627-1322

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JUDGES OPINION

 

Boone County Two LLC (CVS Tenant) v. Lebanon County Board of Assessment Appeals

 

Civil Action-Constitutional Law-Property Tax Assessment-Re-Assessment of Value of Commercial Property Absent Renovations or Improvements-Uniformity Clause-Increase in Value-Spot Zoning

 

A parcel of commercial real estate containing a large CVS pharmacy building was assessed during the most recent countywide assessment at a value of $2,300,000.00.  In December of 2015, that parcel was sold to Boone County Two LLC (CVS Tenant) (“Taxpayer”) for the sum of $5,287,584.00.  The Palmyra Area School District filed an assessment appeal seeking to increase the value of the parcel.  Following a hearing, the Lebanon County Board of Assessment Appeals issued a decision increasing the assessed value of the property.  Taxpayer has filed an Appeal from the re-assessment, asserting that the Palmyra Area School District’s appeal constituted a spot assessment in violation of the Uniformity Clause set forth in the Pennsylvania Constitution.  The Court considered Taxpayer’s Motion to Quash the assessment appeal of the Palmyra Area School District.

 

  1. Article VIII, § 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, known as the Uniformity Clause, requires that all taxes be uniform upon the same class of subjects within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax and shall be levied and collected under general laws.

 

  1. A taxpayer is entitled to relief under the Uniformity Clause where his or her property is assessed at a higher percentage of fair market value than other properties throughout the taxing district, as a taxpayer should pay no more than his or her proportional share of government.

 

  1. Pure equality may not be achievable given the timing of countywide re-assessments and the rapidly fluctuating nature of the real estate market.

 

  1. A nonuniform assessment scheme cannot be created via selective tax appeals by a taxing authority.

 

  1. Both a taxpayer and the taxing authority possess an equal right to challenge a real estate assessment decision.

 

  1. It is not per se unlawful for a taxing authority to seek re-assessment of a specific parcel of property.

 

  1. It is unlawful for a taxing authority to target a specific class of landowners for a political purpose.

 

  1. Title 53 Pa.C.S. 8817 permits a change of assessment valuation when a parcel of land is subdivided into smaller parcels, improvements are made upon the real property or existing improvements are removed from the real property or destroyed.

 

  1. A taxing authority cannot change an assessment unilaterally without undertaking a county wide re-assessment unless a re-assessment is needed to correct a mathematical error or a condition set forth in § 8817 is established.

 

  1. General appreciation of property based upon market fluctuation cannot trigger re-assessment absent a countywide re-assessment plan.

 

  1. A spot assessment is an assessment or re-assessment of a specific property that is not consistent with the assessments of all other similarly situated properties.

 

  1. A spot assessment violates the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

 

  1. The Motion to Quash the appeal will not be granted where the record does not establish that the Palmyra Area School District’s assessment appeal process had the intentional effect of targeting commercial real estate, a taxing authority should have an ability to increase an assessment if a property significantly appreciates in value if a taxpayer has the same right to see a lower assessment value if market conditions caused a devaluation of the property and fairness to all of the other taxpayers in the Palmyra Area School District warrants that Taxpayer pay taxes in proportion to the value of that property.

 

L.C.C.C.P. No. 2016-01658, Opinion by Bradford H. Charles, Judge, June 30, 2020.

 

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEBANON COUNTY

PENNSYLVANIA

CIVIL ACTION – LAW

BOONE COUNTY TWO LLC             (CVS                   :  No. 2016-01658 TENANT)                        

  1. :

LEBANON COUNTY BOARD OF                                   :

ASSESSMENT APPEALS                                                 :

                                                                                               :                       

                       

O R D E R

 

AND NOW, this 30th day of June, 2020, in accordance with the attached Opinion, the Appellant’s Motion to Quash the Assessment Appeal of the Palmyra Area School District is DENIED.  All counsel are to participate in a conference with counsel to address the current posture of this dispute and establish deadlines for final adjudication.  This conference is to be conducted on the 13th day of August, 2020 at 8:30am in Courtroom #3.  One hour has been set aside for this conference.

BY THE COURT:

______________________,J.

BRADFORD H. CHARLES

 

BHC/pmd

 

cc:        Court Administration (order only)

David Warner, Esq.// 525 S. 8th St., Lebanon PA 17042

Robert Frankhouser, Esq.// 126 E. King St., Lancaster PA 17602

Ryan Kammerer, Esq.// 430 Freeport Rd., Pittsburgh PA  15238

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

    Preamble                                                                                                    1-2

 

 

  1. Facts                                     2-5

 

 

  1. Legal Principles 5-19

 

  1. Assessment Appeal Law                                     5-8

 

  1. Uniformity Clause                                           8-14

 

  1. Spot Assessment                                     14-15

 

  1. Punxsutawney Area School District v.

                Broadwing Timber LLC                                                                  16-19

 

 

  • Legal Conclusions                                           19-20

 

  1. Application of Law to Facts                               20-26

 

 

 

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEBANON COUNTY

PENNSYLVANIA

CIVIL ACTION – LAW

BOONE COUNTY TWO LLC             (CVS                   :  No. 2016-01658 TENANT)                        

  1. :

LEBANON COUNTY BOARD OF                                   :

ASSESSMENT APPEALS                                                :

                                                                                               

APPEARANCES:

 

David R. Warner, Esquire                               For Lebanon County

 

Robert Frankhouser, Esquire                           For Palmyra School District

 

Ryan Kammerer, Esquire                                 For Boone County Two LLC

 

 

OPINION BY CHARLES, J., June 30-, 2020

 

This case presents a confluence of unsettled law and unique facts.  As with many confluences, this jurist was initially caught up in a whirlpool of confusion.  Due in no small part to the pedagogical skills of counsel, we were able to find a way to navigate through the confluence…we think!  In the spirit of complete candor, this jurist must acknowledge that he does not possess complete confidence about the decision that will be announced through this Opinion.  In the end, the decision we have rendered feels as much about accomplishing equity for taxpayers of Palmyra as it does about intellectual conclusions based upon copious legal research.  We hope we got this decision right, but only time, and our Appellate Courts, will decide that for sure.

 

  1. FACTS

This case involves a parcel of commercial real estate located on Main Street in the Borough of Palmyra.  The parcel contains a large CVS pharmacy building.  During the last countywide assessment that occurred in 2012, the parcel was assessed based upon a value of $2,300,000.00.  On December 15, 2015, the parcel was sold to Appellant Boone County Two LLC (hereafter TAXPAYER) in return for the sum of $5,287,584.00.  (Stipulation of Fact, Paragraph 2).  Real estate transfer taxes of $52,875.84 were paid on this transfer. (Stipulation of Fact Paragraph 3).

In August of 2016, the Palmyra Area School District filed an Assessment Appeal for tax year 2017 and beyond.  A hearing was conducted before a Board of Assessment Appeals at which proof of the sale price for the property was presented. (Stipulation of Fact, Paragraph 8).  No representative of TAXPAYER appeared at the Board of Assessment hearing. (Stipulation of Fact, Paragraph 9).  Following the Board of Assessment hearing, the Board issued a decision increasing the property’s assessment. (Stipulation of Fact, Paragraph 10).  TAXPAYER appealed that decision to this Court.

As of August 2016, Darcy Brenner-Smith (hereafter BRENNER-SMITH) served as a business manager for the Palmyra Area School District.  On March 13, 2020, BRENNER-SMITH was deposed.  In that deposition, BRENNER-SMITH testified that she looked at a list of property transfers within the school district to determine whether there was a “significant disparity” between the sale price and the assessed value.  (N.T. 8-10).  BRENNER-SMITH stated that the first thing she looked at on the list of transactions was “big sale prices”. (N.T. 12-13).  She acknowledged that “if a number is too small, you are not, it’s not even going to grab your attention.” (N.T. 13).  BRENNER-SMITH also acknowledged that if a property was not sold during 2016, it was not considered by her as a candidate for re-assessment.  (N.T. 14-15).

For tax year 2017, BRENNER-SMITH filed two appeals.  (N.T. 15).  Both involved commercial real estate properties.  One was the Boone County property that is the subject of this dispute.  Another involved a transaction for $27.5 million on property that had been assessed at $7 million.  (N.T. 17).  In both cases, BRENNER-SMITH made a visceral determination that the tax revenue to be gained by an appeal would outweigh any cost pertaining to that appeal. (N.T. 22-23).

BRENNER-SMITH testified that she examined a voluminous list of transactions that were not differentiated by classification or type of real estate.  If the transaction price was sufficiently large, BRENNER-SMITH affixed a Post-It note in order to trigger the need for additional investigation.  (N.T. 24-25).  On the transaction list, another property was noted directly below Appellant’s property that sold for $1.1 million.  No Post-It note was affixed to that property and it was not investigated any further. (N.T. 25-26).  Although BRENNER-SMITH testified that “I don’t have an exact dollar threshold” (N.T. 27), the amount of the transaction obviously had to “catch her attention”. (N.T. 27).

Based upon the above facts, Appellants have taken the position that the taxing authority’s appeal constituted an impermissible effort at undertaking “spot assessment” that violated the Uniformity Clause of Pennsylvania’s Constitution.  In response, the Palmyra Area School District took the position that it was justified in seeking re-assessment of a property that was clearly worth far more than its assessed value.  Both arguments were proffered to this Court initially via a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Appellants.  Because of procedural confusion, the parties agreed that the Summary Judgment motion should be transformed into a Motion to Quash and that a hearing should be conducted.

On June 12, 2020, we conducted a factual hearing at which the parties presented a stipulation, the deposition of BRENNER-SMITH and other documentation.  After the record was closed, we undertook an oral argument that started out as an “Assessment Law 101” course of education for this jurist[1].  Thereafter, in an oral argument that was nearly unprecedented in terms of its value to the Court, both counsel cogently articulated their respective positions for the Court.  We issue this Opinion today in order to address the preliminary legal issue raised by TAXPAYER as a defense to the school district’s assessment appeal.

 

  1. LEGAL PRINCIPLES

We will begin our legal discussion by talking generally about the law of assessment appeals.  Because it is so important to the issue now before this Court, we will proceed from there to analyze both Pennsylvania’s Uniformity Clause and the related issue of “spot assessment”.  We will conclude this section by describing a case that is very similar to the dispute now before this Court.

 

  1. Assessment Appeal Law

Assessment appeals are authorized and governed by statute.  See, 53 Pa. CSA § 8801 et sec.  From a very general perspective, taxing authorities have the ability to appoint assessment boards who will initially determine a real estate assessment, usually predicated upon expert testimony regarding value.  Any taxpayer aggrieved by a decision of a board of assessment has a constitutional right to appeal to the Judiciary of Pennsylvania.  See, Pennsylvania Constitution Article V, Section 9; 72 Pa C.S.A § 8854.

An appeal to the Court of Common Pleas must usually be taken within thirty (30) days after notice of the action by the board of assessment is afforded.  The law also contains an annual review provision.  Section 8844 of the Fourth to Eighth Class County Assessment Law states:

“Any person aggrieved by any assessment, whether or not the value thereof shall have been changed since the preceding annual assessment or any taxing district having an interest in the assessment, may appeal to the board for relief.” 53 Pa. CSA § 8844(c)(1).  The appeal period created by law is between August 1 and September 1 of each year.  See, 53 Pa. CSA § 8844.

 

By statute, “The taxing district shall have the same right to appeal any assessment within its jurisdiction in the same manner, subject to the same procedure and with like effect as if the appeal were taken by a taxable person with respect to the assessment…” 53 Pa. CSA § 8855.  From our research, it appears as though a landowner can file an assessment appeal whenever the landowner believes that his/her/its property is over-valued.  However, the ability of a taxing authority to file an assessment appeal is more limited.

Statutorily, the Assessment Code permits a change of assessment “when a parcel of land is subdivided into smaller parcels or when improvements are made to real property or existing improvements are removed from real property or are destroyed.”  53 Pa. C.S.A. § 8817.  What this means is that a taxing authority cannot change an assessment unilaterally without undertaking a countywide re-assessment, unless a re-assessment is needed to correct a mathematical error, or unless one of the conditions set forth in § 8817 is established.  See, e.g. In RE: Young, 911 A.2d 605 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006).

In 2009, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court described the history behind Pennsylvania’s Assessment Law.  In Clifton v. Allegheny County, 969 A.2d 1197 (Pa. 2009), the Court stated that prior to 1982, each county was required to assess real property annually based upon fair market value.  Because most counties did not comply with the annual re-assessment requirement, the law was changed in 1982 in order to permit what has come to be known as a “base year system of valuation”.  Under that system, each property’s base year assessment – determined at the time of a countywide assessment – serves as the property’s basis for assessment and taxation.  The Court stated:

“In the base year, a property’s assessed value may be 100% of its actual value, and thus, assessments of all real estate in the county are based on actual, fair market value for the base year.  Each year thereafter, however, a given property’s market value may change, but its assessment ordinarily remains static, fixed at its base year level until the next countywide re-assessment.” Id at page 1203.

 

In Clifton, the Court held that a base year assessment model is not “facially unconstitutional”.  The Court stated that taxation “is not a matter of exact science; hence absolute equality and perfect uniformity are not required to satisfy [the Pennsylvania Constitution].”  Id  at page 1210.  The Court further stated that “Some practical inequalities are obviously anticipated, and so long as the taxing scheme does not impose substantially unequal tax burdens, rough uniformity with a limited amount of variation is permitted.” Id at page 1210-1211.

The Supreme Court in Clifton was obviously not comfortable with the base year assessment model.  The Court noted that twenty-two of American states require annual re-assessments and twenty-six others require periodic assessments at given intervals.  The Court said: “Pennsylvania is the only state where legislation allows the use of a base year indefinitely.” Id at page 1231.  In addition, the Court noted that prolonged use of a base year assessment approach can create inequality to the point where the county’s taxation is unconstitutionally non-uniform.[2]

 

  1. Uniformity Clause

There is a constitutional precept that serves as a backdrop for the dispute now before this Court.  A so-called “Uniformity Clause” found in Pennsylvania’s Constitution states:

 

All taxes shall be uniform, upon the same class of subjects, within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax, and shall be levied and collected under general laws.”  Pa. Constitution, Article VIII, § 1.

 

Not surprisingly, this constitutional precept has been the subject of litigation almost since its inception.  In 1909, Pennsylvania’s highest Court explained the purpose of Article VIII, § 1 as follows:

 

“Controversies growing out of the assessment and collection of taxes are as old as civilization.  To question the assessment, to doubt the levy, and to delay the collector may be classed among those inalienable rights of mankind not guaranteed by any constitution, but very generally asserted under the law of human nature. From time immemorial, the people have resisted all attempts to increase the burdens of taxation and have yielded only when convinced of the governmental necessity demanding such increase…

 

 

“While every tax is a burden, it is more cheerfully borne when the citizen feels that he is only required to bear his proportionate share of that burden measured by the value of his property to that of his neighbor.  This is not an idle thought in the mind of the taxpayer, nor it is a mere speculative theory advocated by learned writers on the subject; but it is a fundamental principle written into the constitutions and statutes of almost every state in this country. Delaware L.&W. Railroad Company’s Tax Assessment, 224 Pa. 240, 73 A.429, 430 (1909).

 

Until recently, the Uniformity Clause was cited chiefly in litigation about whether or how countywide reassessments should be conducted.  See, e.g. City of Lancaster v. County of Lancaster, 599 A.2d 289 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1991); City of Harrisburg v. Dauphin County Board of Assessment Appeals, 677 A.2d 350 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1996); Millcreek Township School District v. County of Erie, 714 A.2d 1095 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1998); Hibbs v. Chester-Upland School District, 606 A.2d 629 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1992).  More recently, individualized assessment challenges predicated upon the Uniformity Clause have become more common.

In Downingtown Area School District v. Chester County Board of Assessment Appeals, 913 A.2d 194 (Pa. 2006), the owner of a “strip” shopping center challenged the decision of Chester County to reassess property at 100% of its fair market value.  The Supreme Court began its analysis by stating:

“As early as 1930, this Court recognized that a taxpayer is entitled to relief under the Uniformity Clause where his property is assessed at a higher percentage of fair market value than other properties throughout the taxing district.  This precept is based upon the general principle that taxpayers should pay no more or less than their proportionate share of government.”

 

Id at page 199 (Citation omitted)

 

The above being recognized, the Supreme Court acknowledged that pure equality may not be achievable given the timing of countywide reassessments and the rapidly fluctuating nature of the real estate market.  In the end, the Supreme Court remanded the Downingtown case to the trial court “for consideration of the adequacy of Appellant’s uniformity challenge…”  Effectively, Downingtown stood for the proposition that a non-uniform assessment scheme cannot be created via selective tax appeals by a taxing authority.

Unfortunately, the decision rendered by Downingtown was clouded by language that the court chose to use:

“This Court has interpreted the Uniformity Clause as precluding real property from being divided into different classes for purposes of systematic property tax assessment, we do not find that this general uniformity precept eliminates any opportunity or need to consider meaningful sub-classifications as a component of the overall evaluation of uniform treatment in the application of the taxation scheme.  Indeed, this would represent an impermissible departure from Federal Equal Protection jurisprudence, which sets the floor for Pennsylvania’s uniformity assessment. Id at page 200.

 

This language in Downingtown was seized upon by Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court, which held in cases such as In Re: Springfield School District, 101 A.3d 835 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2014) that it was permissible for a taxing authority to systematically select a sub-classification of properties for assessment appeals.  In Springfield, the Commonwealth Court stated explicitly: “The Uniformity Clause does not require equalization across all sub-classifications of real property.”  Id at page 849.

The next key case involving assessment appeals and the Uniformity Clause was Valley Forge Towers Apartment v. Upper Merion School District, 163 A.3d 962 (Pa. 2017).  In Valley Forge Towers, a school district systematically appealed only assessments of commercial property owners.  Based upon the record of the case, the Court determined that the taxing authority had made a conscious political decision not to appeal residential assessments so as to avoid the anger of taxpayer-voters.  Pennsylvania’s highest court declared that such an approach violated the Uniformity Clause.  The Supreme Court specifically rejected the Commonwealth Court’s decision in Springfield Township, supra.  The Supreme Court stated that “All real estate in a taxing district forms a single collective class to be treated uniformly, and that systematic disparate enforcement of the tax laws based upon property sub-classification, even absent wrongful conduct, is constitutionally precluded…” Id at page 978.  Accordingly, the Court in Valley Forge Towers held:

 

“that a taxing authority is not permitted to implement a program of only appealing the assessments of one sub-classification of properties, where that sub-classification is drawn according to property type – that is, its use as commercial apartment complex, single-family residential, industrial, or the like.” Id at page 978.

 

Although clearly rejecting the tax assessment appeals scheme of the Upper Merion Area School District, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stopped short of declaring that taxing authorities cannot appeal assessments.  The Court stated:

“We do not overlook that Section 8855 gives the school district a statutory right to appeal assessments; our point is that this alone cannot justify an action with which the Uniformity Clause prohibits.” Id at page 978.

 

The Court also stated:

 

“We pause at this juncture to clarify that nothing in this Opinion should be construed as suggesting that the use of a monetary threshold – such as the one challenged in Springfield – or some other selection criteria would violate uniformity if it were implemented without regard to the type of property in question or the residency status of its owner.” Id at page 979.

 

Ultimately, the Court concluded its Opinion by stating:

“The government must be concerned with insuring a rough equalization of tax burdens under a structure in which taxes are imposed, adjusted and collected equitably.  Thus, as ‘every tax is a burden’, it is important that the public has confidence that property taxes are administered in a just and impartial manner, with each taxpayer contributing his or her fair share of the cost of government…Where there is a conflict between maximizing revenue and insuring that the taxing system is implemented in a non-discriminatory way, the Uniformity Clause requires that the latter be given primacy…Notably, however, the two objectives do not necessarily conflict.” Id at page 980.

As could be predicted, Valley Forge Towers, raised as many questions as it appeared to answer.  Although Valley Forge Towers makes clear that a taxing authority cannot systematically adjust assessment appeals for political purposes, and while Valley Forge Towers also emphasizes that real estate cannot be “sub-classified” for purposes of assessment appeals, the Court stopped well short of precluding a taxing entity from filing assessment appeals.  Moreover, the Court seemed to imply in its concluding language that use of some sort of “monetary threshold” to justify assessment appeals would not automatically violate the Uniformity Clause.

An additional case bears note.  In Kennett Consolidate School District v. Chester County Board of Assessment Appeals, 2020 WL 962421 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2020), the Kennett Consolidated School District instructed its business manager to appeal assessments that “had a high probability of being under assessed by more than $1,000,000.00 of market value.”  The business manager was instructed to review all classes of property, including “commercial, residential, and otherwise.”  A Uniformity Clause challenge was proffered predicated largely upon Valley Forge Towers, supra.  That challenge was rejected by the Commonwealth Court.  The Court stated:

 

 

 

“We conclude that District’s appeal practices did not violate the Uniformity Clause.  Under Valley Forge, District’s actions were constitutionally firm.  The record reflects that District intentionally disregarded the type of property and, thus, in cannot be said that District’s actions in appealing the assessments of commercial properties were intentional.  Where, as here, a taxing authority intentionally disregards the type of property when deciding what property assessments to appeal, its conduct is inherently not deliberate.  Moreover, District’s actions did not systematically target commercial properties, but, rather, only focused on properties that would be worth the cost and expense of an appeal.  Valley Forge makes it abundantly clear that there is a balance to be struck between a school district’s ability to appeal an assessment and the Uniformity Clause.  Thus, a school district’s policy that attempts to be fiscally responsible by only appealing assessments that would generate enough revenue to justify the cost of the appeal does not violate the Uniformity Clause.”

 

 

  1. Spot Assessment

A spot assessment is an assessment or re-assessment of a specific property that is not consistent with the assessments of all other similarly situated properties.  The statutory definition of the term “spot re-assessment” is “The re-assessment of a property or properties by a county assessment office that is not conducted as part of a countywide revision of assessment and which creates, disdains or increases disproportionality among properties’ assessed values.” (See, 53 Pa. CSA § 8802 definition of “Spot Re-assessment”).

Generally speaking, a spot assessment violates the Uniformity Clause of Pennsylvania’s Constitution. Moreover, Pennsylvania’s statute specifically targets the practice as unlawful:

“A county assessment office is prohibited from engaging in the practice of spot re-assessment.  In the event that the county assessment office engages in the practice of spot re-assessment, the property owner may file an appeal to the board, limited to the issue of spot re-assessment, in accordance with this chapter…” 53 Pa. CSA § 8843.

 

While relatively easy to articulate, determining whether a board action constitutes a “spot assessment” is much harder to determine.  Generally speaking, when a property is improved via renovation, a re-assessment of that property will not constitute a “spot assessment”.  However, even when a taxpayer expended $58,000.00 for renovations, that did not automatically support re-assessment when the market value of the property was not appreciably affected by the renovations.  See¸ Groner v. Monroe County Board of Assessment Appeals, 803 A.2d 1270 (Pa. 2002).  On the other hand, the addition of cellular towers was held sufficient to support a re-assessment.  Shenandoah Mobile Company v. Dauphin County Board of Assessment Appeals, 869 A.2d 562 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005).[3]  See also, Butch v. Board of Assessment Appeals of Berks County, 958 A.2d 1158 (pa. Cmwlth. 2008).

 

  1. Punxsutawney Area School District v. Broadwing Timber LLC

We have devoted a separate section of this Opinion to a case we discovered on WestLaw, Punxsutawney Area School District v. Broadwing Timber LLC, 2019 WL5561413 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2019), (hereafter

PUNXSUTAWNEY).  We are well aware that PUNXSUTAWNEY was issued by a panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, and that the panel declared its Opinion to be non-precedential.  Nevertheless, the Commonwealth Court proclaimed in its preamble that the PUNXSUTAWNEY decision can be considered as “persuasive authority”.  Because the facts of PUNXSUTAWNEY are so similar to the facts at bar, we will cite it and consider its analysis as “persuasive”.

In PUNXSUTAWNEY, a school district filed an assessment appeal pertaining to over 2,500 acres of land.  The business manager of the school district noticed a transaction of $5 million in November of 2014.  Without considering the type of property involved or the identity of the owner, the business manager set out to determine the amount of tax revenue that could be generated by a re-assessment of the property.  After determining that the potential revenue increase far outweighed the anticipated cost of an assessment appeal, the business manager sought and received approval from the school board to seek re-assessment.

During litigation, the business manager testified that she did not use any specific monetary threshold.  Rather, she used a more visceral approach when she estimated whether the revenue to be gained outweighed the cost of litigating an appeal.  In her words, the decision to appeal was “strictly based on the possibility of revenue versus the expense of appealing it.”

The Court of Common Pleas determined that the business administrator “initiated all taxes assessment appeals by highlighting atypically lucrative property sales without consideration of the type or ownership of the property being sold.”  The Court determined that the administrator’s approach was “blind to all but the potential tax revenue suggested by a high sales price.”  Because of this, the Common Pleas Court distinguished Valley Forge and proclaimed that the Punxsutawney School District did not violate the Uniformity Clause of Pennsylvania’s Constitution.

On appeal, the taxpayer argued that the district’s sales-based approach to identifying potential re-assessment created an impermissible sub-classification of property under Valley Forge.  In practice, the taxpayer argued that the school district’s approach systematically targeted commercial properties.  The taxpayer argued: “If this practice is allowed to continue Valley Forge would be rendered meaningless.”

The Commonwealth Court began its analysis by noting that a taxing authority has the same right to appeal an assessment as does a taxpayer.  However, “When a taxing authority exercises this discretionary power…it must do so within ‘Constitutional boundaries’”.  The Court concluded, though, that Pennsylvania’s Constitution does not require that a school district employ a “formal or written policy or criteria” in determining whether to undertake an assessment appeal.

The Commonwealth Court expressly distinguished Valley Forge.  Unlike the overt politically-driven approach decried in Valley Forge, the Commonwealth Court characterized PUNXSUTAWNEY’s approach as a “property-by-property analysis to determine if it makes financial sense to appeal an assessment.”  The Court stated:

“The neutral and financial nature of this process is borne out by the fact that not all properties with higher realty transfer taxes or sale prices were appealed due to the fact that the cost of the appeal would have been outweighed by the minimal, if any, increase in tax revenue the district would have realized.  Accordingly, the district’s practice is not an arbitrary one, but is rationally based on a financial analysis implemented without regard to a property’s type or ownership and is of the type approved by Valley Forge.”

 

The Commonwealth Court also rejected the taxpayer’s argument that the school district’s approach created a de facto exclusion of residential re-assessment.  The Court noted that the business manager testified that she rejected the notion that no residential properties would be sold for a sufficiently high amount such as to warrant a review of the current assessment.  The Commonwealth Court stated:

“So far, no sale of residential properties has resulted in a high enough realty transfer tax to warrant review, and [taxpayer] has not presented evidence to the contrary.  That is not to say that none will in the future, and, based upon business administrator’s credited testimony, if one does, the same process will be used to determine whether the property’s assessment should be appealed.”

 

Ultimately, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the decision of the Trial Court that permitted the school district to seek re-assessment.  The Court concluded:

“For the foregoing reasons, the district’s practice of determining what property assessments to appeal, which is based on the numbers and implemented without regard to a property’s type or ownership, does not violate the Uniformity Clause and is not inconsistent with our Supreme Court’s decision in Valley Forge.”

 

We understand from Appellant’s brief that PUNXSUTAWNEY has been appealed to Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court.  We hope, and we expect, that the Supreme Court will render a decision in the relatively near future.  When that occurs, we hopefully will have the benefit of binding precedent in a case that is very similar factually to the one at bar.  For today, we will consider PUNXSUTAWNEY as persuasive – but not binding – precedent.

 

III.     LEGAL CONCLUSIONS

Over the years, we have often found it helpful to organize our thoughts by listing lessons gleaned from applicable legal precedent.  We will use that paradigm here as well.  From all of the above, we conclude as follows:

  • Both taxpayers and taxing authorities possess an equal right to challenge real estate assessment decisions. It is not per se unlawful for a taxing authority to seek re-assessment of a specific parcel of property.
  • ALL assessment decisions, including assessment appeals, are governed and/or limited by the Uniformity Clause of Pennsylvania’s Constitution. ALL assessment decisions must be undertaken with the goal of insuring that similarly situated properties are treated similarly without regard to the type or primary use of the property.
  • It is unlawful for a taxing authority to target a specific class of landowners for political purposes.
  • It is also unlawful for a taxing authority to target one specific land owner, or even a class of land owners, if the net result would cause that land owner to be treated disproportionately in terms of taxation.
  • If an event occurs – such as property renovation – that clearly affects the value of real estate, it is lawful for a taxing authority to seek re-assessment. However, general appreciation of property based upon market fluctuation cannot trigger re-assessment absent a countywide re-assessment plan.

 

  1. APPLICATION OF LAW TO FACTS

Unfortunately, the unique fact pattern of this case does not fit neatly with any of the decisional precedent we have encountered, nor are the positions of either party clearly repugnant to the legal conclusions we have articulated in Section III of this Opinion.  From a visceral standpoint, if we were to focus primarily upon Valley Forge Towers, the law would seem to favor Appellants.  However, if we were to focus only on Kennett Consolidated School District, the law would seem to favor the school district.  Stated simply, there is no self-evident conclusion to be reached regarding TAXPAYER’s Motion to Quash.

Because Appellate case law does not clearly favor either party, and because the Supreme Court in Valley Forge Towers instructs that we must be cognizant of the need for “rough equalization of tax burdens” so that everyone pays “his or her fair share” of taxes, we will take some time to evaluate the relative equities of both parties’ positions.

On the one hand, equalization of tax requires assessments that are predicated upon value of land.  Generally speaking, owners of highly valuable land enjoy the benefits of that high value.  They should pay taxes that are proportional to the benefits they enjoy.  If the owner of a highly valuable piece of land does not pay taxes proportional to the benefits enjoyed from owning valuable property, the result can be profoundly unfair to other taxpayers.

An example of this can be found with a situation occurring today in Lebanon County.  The real estate that once hosted a sprawling ALCOA factory became an overgrown field of grass when the plant was demolished.  Moreover, it is considered a “brown field” that would not be suitable for many uses.  In short, after the ALCOA factory was torn down, the land became almost worthless.  Then pipelines were planned through Lebanon County.  Fences were installed in the field.  Temporary structures were erected.  Millions of dollars of equipment started arriving for storage and use in pipeline construction.  What was once an almost worthless piece of property suddenly became an extremely valuable staging area.  Should the property be assessed as a worthless brown field, or should it be assessed based upon its value to the company that is using it?  If the former occurs, the result would be profoundly unfair to other tax payers who would end up paying more than their fair share of taxes.[4]

On the other hand, selecting real estate transactions to investigate predicated exclusively upon larger sales prices strikes us as an invitation to non-uniform taxation.  Everyone knows that commercial real estate is more valuable than residential land.  In Lebanon County, one would be hard-pressed to find many residential real estate valued at more than $2,000,000.00.  Yet commercial transactions in excess of that amount occur with regularity.  If a taxing authority wanted to undertake targeted re-assessment against commercial owners, one way to accomplish that would be to only seek re-assessment where transaction thresholds exceeded $2,000,000.00.  While the methodology would not be as overt as the one decried by the Supreme Court in Valley Forge Towers, the result would be the same – commercial owners would pay more than their fair share.

The above still does not get us to the point where we are able to render a confident decision.  The law is somewhat obtuse.  The facts of this case are unique.  There are equities that weigh for and against both sides.  All of these factors combine to make this decision an incredibly difficult one.

Nevertheless, we are required to make a call, and we will do just that.  For reasons we will articulate below, we will overrule TAXPAYER’s Motion to Quash and will allow the above-referenced dispute to move forward to a hearing on the merits of the assessment. The reasons for this decision include the following:

  • The facts of the Punxsutawney case are materially indistinguishable from those presented in this case. In Punxsutawney, both the Common Pleas Court and the Commonwealth Court determined that a process employed by a school district almost identical to the one undertaken by BRENNER-SMITH did not violate the Uniformity Clause of Pennsylvania’s Constitution.  We are well aware that Punxsutawney is not binding precedent.  Yet the Commonwealth Court has indicated that we can consider it as “persuasive”, and we will do just that.
  • While we can and will determine that the school district’s assessment appeal process has the effect of targeting commercial real estate, there is no evidence anywhere in the record that this type of targeting was a conscious policy of the school district. The list of transactions reviewed by BRENNER-SMITH did not contain any information about the type of property that was being transferred.  Moreover, while the existence of a multi-million dollar residential transaction in Lebanon County is implausible, it is not impossible.  And there would be no way for BRENNER-SMITH to know from the documents she reviewed whether transactions she identified with a Post-It note were in fact residential or commercial.  In this case, we simply do not have the same type of politically motivated assessment targeting that the Supreme Court decried in Valley Forge Towers.
  • The logical implication of the argument proffered by the TAXPAYER herein is that without some sort of building permit-driven improvement or a countywide re-assessment, no taxing authority can appeal an assessment during the annual appeal period. We have a difficult time accepting this premise intellectually, because a Pennsylvania statute proclaims that taxing authorities possess the same right to pursue an assessment appeal as does a taxpayer.  If in fact a taxpayer would be able to seek a lower assessment if market conditions caused a devaluation of property, our visceral reaction is that taxing authorities should have a concomitant ability to increase an assessment if a property significantly appreciates in value.
  • A landowner such as Appellant herein enjoys an immediate benefit that is proportional to the current market value of the real estate that is owned. When banks use land as collateral, they base the amount to be borrowed upon current market value.  When an owner of property applies for credit, that owner’s net worth is predicated upon the current market value of real estate owned.  When a property is sold in order to generate cash or acquire new property, it is sold for current market value.  To the extent that any property owner enjoys benefits based upon current market value – and that extent is considerable – should not that same owner be required to pay taxes proportional to the market value benefits that owner enjoys?  We answer this rhetorical question in the affirmative.
  • The law clearly recognizes that uniformity under the Pennsylvania Constitution is not an exact science. In fact, the only point in time when pure uniformity is achieved is following a countywide re-assessment.  Countywide re-assessments are expensive and burdensome and Pennsylvania has not passed a requirement that they be conducted within any given time interval.  Because of this, some non-uniformity will of necessity exist.  The question is one of extent.  In the view of this Court, that question can be addressed when we substantively evaluate re-assessment based upon the parties’ expert testimony about valuation and comparable properties.  Using this procedural vehicle to foreclose a market-driven analysis of a properties’ worth could, and probably would, create even greater non-uniformity.
  • This dispute is not just about fairness to TAXPAYER. It is also about fairness to all of the other taxpayers in the Palmyra Area School District.  The tens of thousands of property owners in the Palmyra Area School District pay their taxes based upon the premise that everyone is paying in proportion to the value of their property.  If any party pays an amount based upon an artificially low market value, that owner is paying less than his/her/its fair share.  Such a result is unfair to the thousands of taxpayers who are bearing their proportionate share of the school district’s tax-funded expenses.

 

We are more than aware that the program employed by BRENNER-SMITH would not have identified residential taxpayers who purchased property that had appreciated every bit as much as TAXPAYERS’ property had since 2012.  Such reality has given us pause, because – consciously or unconsciously – the effect of BRENNER-SMITH’s approach was to discriminate against commercial real estate owners.  Nevertheless, and despite our not insignificant misgivings, we will err on the side of allowing this dispute to proceed to a substantive adjudication regarding value of TAXPAYERS’ property.  An Order to accomplish this result will be entered simultaneous with this Opinion.

 

[1] Assessment appeals involve a body of law with which this jurist has never before intersected.  In addition to arguing their respective causes, both counsel were required to provide this Court with a “primer” on the basics of assessment appeal law.  That exercise was no doubt tedious for counsel, but was deeply appreciated by this Court.

[2] Because the base year model has been approved in Pennsylvania, something called a “common level ratio” (CLR) has developed.  The CLR is defined as “the ratio of assessed value to current market value used generally in the county and published by the State Tax Equalization Board on or before July 1 of the year prior to the tax year on appeal…” See, 53 Pa. CSA § 8802.

[3] The confusing nature of real estate assessment law was heightened for us because two other cases, In Re: Young, 911 A.2d 605 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006) and Board of Assessment Appeals of Lawrence County v. Foster, 911 A.2d 249 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006) appear to directly contradict the holding of Shenandoah Mobile Company, supra.

[4] We note that police are required to patrol the area of pipeline staging, especially since pipeline opponent advocates have been known to undertake vandalism.  If a fire were to occur, municipal funded fire departments would have to respond to the area.  Unlike the vacant field, the current use of the property constitutes a drain on municipal resources and taxes should be paid to reflect that fact.

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