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July 2015 Archives

City council land use decisions subject to special "prerogative"

Land use disputes in Philadelphia are often decided by the city council after a public hearing. A recent study now explains how such decisions are almost always controlled not by evidence adduced at the hearing but by a long-standing practice called "councilmanic prerogative."

Redevelopment plan stirs protests, opposition from neighbors

Approximately one year ago, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sold a 213 acre parcel of land in Marple Township to a private developer, who announced plans for construction of a mixed use-development on the site. As approval of the developer's plans moves through the township's and county's zoning process, opposition to the project is beginning to emerge.

Supreme Court upholds $18.5 million breach-of-lease judgment

Many real estate disputes go to court, but very few are tried and most are settled. Only rarely do such cases result in the entry of a final judgment for a significant amount of money. A very large exception to this "rule" was recently provided by a decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The court refused to hear an appeal by Safeway, Inc. from a decision of the state superior court that affirmed a judgment of $18.5 million against Safeway, Inc. for breaching its lease with Newman Development Group.

Municipal liens cause problems for Philadelphia landlords

Many property owners in Pennsylvania are aware that municipalities have the power to file a lien against property for the amount of unpaid real estate taxes. Property owners, however, are not always aware that municipalities also have the right to file liens for unpaid water and gas charges and that these liens take priority over all other liens, except tax liens. The existence of such a lien can complicate the process of selling a parcel that is subject to a municipal lien.

City council okays used of eminent domain for Sharswood project

Eminent domain, or "condemnation," as it is often called, is a legal process that a government agency can use to compel land owners to sell their properties for use in a so-called "public improvement." One of the most frequent uses of the process allows municipal government to acquire urban land for redevelopment. In order to invoke eminent domain for this purpose, Pennsylvania laws require that the land satisfied the statutory definition of "blighted". The entire definition is too long to quote or adequately summarize in this blog, but its essential meaning is that the land in question is abandoned, defective, unmarketable or tax delinquent. Multiple units may be acquired if a majority of them are "blighted."

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