On 12/27/07, the PA Supreme Court reversed a divided Commonwealth Court panel, ruling in Ephrata Area School District versus County of Lancaster, Borough of Ephrata, and Lancaster County Agricultural Preserve Board that the School District must secure consent of the County in order to obtain a right-of-way over privately owned land that is subject to an open space property interest vested in the County.
To quote from the opinion: "This appeal presents a question of first impression: whether, under the Open Space Lands Act, 32 P.S. § 5001 et seq., appellee, Ephrata Area School District, must secure the consent of appellant, the County of Lancaster, in order to obtain a right-of-way over privately owned land that is subject to an open space property interest vested in the County. Overruling the trial court, a divided Commonwealth Court panel determined that consent was not required under Section 5011 of the Act in this instance, based on the fact that the County is not a fee simple owner of the property. Based upon the plain language of Section 5011, as well as the agreement granting the open space easement, we disagree and, therefore, reverse."
The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association joined with the Lancaster County Agricultural Preservation Board, Lancaster Farmland Trust, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and others in working to attain this Supreme Court ruling.
Both the majority and dissenting opinion are available for download.