The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently addressed the requirement that a condemnor must initiate the condemnation action within one year of the action authorizing the condemnation. In In Re: Condemnation by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Allentown, the condemned property was determined to be blighted on March 8, 2004. On June 14, 2005, the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Allentown (RACA) adopted a resolution authorizing the executive director to acquire the property through eminent domain. On June 15, 2005, the Allentown City Council adopted a resolution authorizing RACA to acquire the property through eminent domain, if necessary.

The RACA waited until September 15, 2008 to file the Declaration of Taking – the filing that initiates a condemnation case in PA. Section 302(e) of the PA Eminent Domain Code, 26 Pa.C.S. § 302(e), states: “The condemnor shall file within one year of the action authorizing the declaration of taking, a declaration of taking covering all properties included in the authorization not otherwise acquired by the condemnor within this time.”

The Condemnee challenged the taking alleging that the Declaration was not filed within the required year from the date of authorization. On December 3, 2008, the RACA adopted another resolution continuing the authorization of the taking of the property. On December 11, 2008, the RACA filed an Amended Declaration of Taking. Condemnee challenged the Amended Declaration. The Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County sustained the challenge to both the Declaration and Amended Declaration.

On appeal, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The RACA argued that amended declarations may be filed as of course without instituting new court actions in order to cure technical defects. The Court rejected that argument and held that the the RACA, “only had one year from the date of the resolution to file its Declaration. Clearly, it did not do so. There is nothing in [The Code] giving RACA authority to extend the one year time period by adopting another resolution ‘continuing’ the authority to condemn.”