Ephrata Area Sch. Dist. v. Cty. of Lancaster

886 A.2d 1169 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2005)

 

RULE:

Except as limited by the terms of the servitude, the holder of the servient estate is entitled to make any use of the servient estate that does not unreasonably interfere with enjoyment of the servitude. 

FACTS:

A school district entered into an agreement with private property owners to acquire a right-of-way for an access road to its school. The right-of-way was to cross an open space easement, owned by the County, on private property. The County denied approval of the right-of-way. The school district filed a declaratory judgment action in the trial court seeking a declaration that County approval was not required for the acquisition of a right-of-way over the land. The court ruled that approval was required and the school district appealed.

ISSUE:

Was approval for a right of way required from the County, which owned an open space easement?

ANSWER:

No

CONCLUSION:

The Court held that it was unnecessary for a servient owner, the property owner who granted the open space easement, to obtain a prior consent of the easement holder, the County, in order to grant additional easements over its property. The private property owner was permitted to grant an additional easement as long as it did not unreasonably interfere with the County's easement rights. The County conceded the School District's proposed right-of-way was not to violate its open space easement. Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 32, § 5011(a) was consistent with the common law. Section 5011(a) stated that ownership of an open space easement did not, in and of itself, preclude the acquisition and use of a right-of-way. While § 5011(a) provided for County approval of an acquisition from a local government unit, the right-of-way was not being acquired from a government unit. It was being acquired from a private owner.

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