Friday, July 19, 2013

Writ Of Mandamus to Assign Tax Parcel Numbers

Moyer, et al v. Gudknecht, et al. 2013 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 89 (2013)

Frank Kosir, Jr., Esquire
This matter addressed the issue of whether a property owner was entitled to a writ of mandamus compelling a local board of assessment to assign tax parcel numbers to certain parcels of real property.  In 2007, Ralph Moyer (“Moyer”) purchased a parcel of real property (“Moyer Property”) situated in Milford Township (“Township”), Bucks County (“County”), Pennsylvania.  The Moyer Property had been conveyed on several prior occasions dating back to the 1950s, with each deed of conveyance describing the boundaries of the Moyer Property as “according to a recent survey and plan dated March 16, 1956, as prepared by Stanley F. Moyer, Registered Engineer and Land Surveyor, Souderton, Pennsylvania,” with no reference to any specific lots.  However, the deed into Moyer amended the property description to also state:  “AND, being more particularly described as Lots 1 to 4 on said plan prepared by Stanley F. Moyer, bounded and described as follows,” and included descriptions of the four lots.  Although there was no recorded subdivision plan depicting the lots described in the deed into Moyer, the Office of the Bucks County Recorder of Deeds nonetheless accepted the deed into Moyer for recording.

In August of 2007, Moyer conveyed “Lot 3” of the Moyer Property to Alfred O. Werner (“Werner”), and submitted his deed into Werner for recording with the office of the Bucks County Recorder of Deeds.  At the same time, Moyer requested that the Bucks County Board of Assessment (“Board”) assign separate tax parcel numbers to the individual lots described in the deed into him.  However, the Board denied Moyer’s request concluding that, since the individual lots were not part of a recorded subdivision plan, and were not depicted on any County tax map, they were in violation of both Township ordinances and County subdivision regulations requiring the approval of any subdivision plan creating three or more new parcels.  As a result of the Board’s refusal to issue a tax parcel number, the Recorder of Deeds refused to accept the deed for the recording.  In response, Moyer and Werner commenced an action against the Board and the Recorder of Deeds in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas seeking writs of mandamus compelling the Board to issue tax parcel numbers for the individual lots and the Recorder of Deeds to accept the deed for recording.  The trial court conducted a hearing, and issued an order dismissing all of Moyer and Werners’ claims with prejudice.

On appeal, our Commonwealth Court affirmed.  In issuing its ruling, the court concluded that, pursuant to the Pennsylvania Uniform Parcel Identifier Law (21 P.S. §331, et seq. ) (“Law”), counties are entitled to create and implement by ordinance a uniform parcel identifier system.  In this matter, the County had implemented such an ordinance stating that, where a deed of conveyance results in a change in the size or description of the real estate from the prior deed in the chain of title, in order to receive a tax parcel number, the grantee is required to provide the Board with a metes and bounds description derived from a survey, as well as a lot number referencing a specific recorded subdivision plan prepared by a licensed surveyor.  As such, in order to be entitled to tax parcel numbers, Moyer and Werner were required to satisfy all of the requirements of the ordinance and, since they were unable to produce a recorded subdivision plan with an engineer’s seal, they had failed to satisfy the requirements of the ordinance and were not entitled to mandamus relief.  The court further noted that, although the Law does not require a recorded subdivision plan as a condition for the issuance of a tax parcel number, nothing in the Law precludes the County from establishing such an additional requirement.

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