A Lehigh County Trial Court recently held that an eminent domain action was void ab initio where the condemning authority did not file a declaration of taking within one year of the authorization of taking. In In re Condemnation by the Redev. Auth. of the City of Allentown, (C.P. Lehigh Jan. 13, 2011), the Allentown City Council adopted a resolution authorizing the Redevelopment Authority to acquire a property through eminent domain in 2005. However, the declaration of taking was not filed until Sept. 15, 2008.
The PA Eminent Domain Code was amended effective Sept. 1, 2006 – after the authorization was adopted and before the filing of the declaration of taking. One of the amendments provided that "the condemnor shall file within one year of the action authorizing the declaration of taking a declaration of taking…." The Court sustained the condemnee’s objections to the taking on the basis that the declaration of taking was filed over one year after the authorization. It reasoned that the time limit for filing a declaration of taking is analogous to a statute of limitations. "A statute of limitations is procedural; statutes relating to procedural matters, such as statutes of limitation, are applicable to cases filed after the effective date of the statute."