IN RE: ERIE GOLF COURSE

SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA
No. 12 WAP 2009, March 25, 2010

This decision interprets the Pennsylvania Donated or Dedicated Property Act [Act of Dec. 15, 1959, P.L. 1772 (as amended 53 P.S. §§ 3381-3386), “DDPA”]. “DDPA permits political entities to sell at least certain donated or dedicated property upon orphans’ court approval, subject to conditions, where the original purposes are no longer practical and the property has ceased to serve the public interest.” The City of Erie sought court approval of sale of land that had been conveyed to the City subject to “a restrictive covenant memorializing the City’s commitment to preserve the property, indefinitely, as a golf course and/or for park purposes”. The PA Supreme Court determined (1) the DDPA governs the ability of a city to dispose of land formally dedicated and accepted by the city, in addition to land not formally dedicated; but (2) in applying the DDPA “the essential discretion lay in the orphans’ court” – that court must not defer to the city’s determination about whether continuation of the original use of a property held in trust as a public facility is no longer practicable or possible and has ceased to serve the public interest, but rather “the DDPA shares considerable similarities with the cy pres doctrine applicable to charitable trusts”.

Decision available at http://www.courts.state.pa.us/OpPosting/Supreme/out/J-77-2009.pdf.

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