In Reading Area Water Authority v. The Schuylkill River Greenway Association, the Reading Area Water Authority condemned land for the construction, maintenance and operation of utility lines and appurtenance of a water main. The property owners challenged the taking and alleged the facilities would be purely for the benefit of a private developer. Specifically, they alleged that the condemnation violates Section 204(a) of the Private Property Protection Act, 26 Pa. C.S. § 204(a), which prohibits the taking of private property in order to use it for private enterprise.
The trial court ruled that the taking was improper because it believed that the “primary and paramount benefactor of the proposed condemnation” for sewer and storm water facilities was [the developer] and not the general public.” The trial court stated that “[u]nder the guise of expanding their customer base and providing water to the public, RAWA is attempting to achieve its true goal and take land from one private owner and give it to another.”
The Commonwealth Court reversed and held that the condemnation was proper. It explained that RAWA is authorized by law to use its power of eminent domain to condemn land for the provision of water and sewer facilities which “constitute a public purpose. In this case, RAWA is not transferring title from one private entity to another, but is taking property . . . to hold publicly for the purpose of providing water services and to facilitate the construction of sewer and storm water management facilities. [The developer] is constructing these facilities at its own cost, providing sewer and storm water management to those members of the public who will live in the development. While the availability of these utilities will undoubtedly make the homes built by [the developer] more attractive to potential buyers, such an incidental benefit to [the developer] does not strip the project of its public purpose, to wit, providing water, sewer and storm water management to citizens living in RAWA’s service area. Accordingly, we conclude that RAWA properly exercised its powers of eminent domain.”