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PA Commonwealth Court Affirms Strict Necessity Requirement for Private Roads

Posted in Road Project

PA Commonwealth Court recently found that a property owner was not entitled to a private road across a neighboring property since it appeared that the property owner was entitled to an easement by necessity across another property.

In In Re: Laying Out and Opening of: Private Road in Hazle Township, owners of a landlocked property petitioned the Court pursuant to the Private Road Act for a road across a neighbor’s property to connect to PA Route 309. The Board of View determined that the property owners were not entitled to a private road because they could assert an easement by necessity over another property. The Commonwealth Court held that it was proper for the Board of View to consider whether the property owners could assert an easement by necessity across another property other than the property which was the subject of the Petition to Permit a Private Road.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court found “When reviewing a request to open a private road under the Act, we are cognizant that the Act is in the nature of eminent domain and, therefore, must be strictly construed.” The Court further found that while the Board of View cannot “quiet title and make a determination binding on the affected landowners as to whether an easement by necessity exists, it is not error for a Board of Viewers to consider whether it appears that an easement by necessity exists. The potential existence of such an easement is relevant to the question of whether a private road is strictly necessary.”