A divided Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that PennDOT could condemn over 40 Philadelphia properties even though the takings were initiated over a year after the plans’ first approval. The decision reversed a trial court’s ruling that Section 302(e) of PA’s Eminent Domain Code gave PennDOT a year to file a declaration of taking after first authorizing a project. The appellate court ruled that PennDOT could subsequently reauthorize the project and effectively reset the one-year clock provided by the code.

The Court explained, “Under the trial court’s application of Section 302(e), a condemnor would be required to file all the necessary declarations of taking within the one-year period or forever be barred from proceeding with the taking. Such a result could jeopardize a condemnor’s ability to perform necessary public improvement or even to complete public improvement that have started and not finished. Certainly this could not have been the intent of the General Assembly as the public is not served by such an approach.” Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt opined in a dissent that allowing reauthorizations to reset the one-year clock would “place private property owners in eminent domain limbo.”

The case is In re: Condemnation by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al., case number 1308 CD 2014.