Lower Maker Township v. Lands of Chester Dalgewicz (majority)Annotate this Case
Appellees owned a 166-acre farm in Lower Makefield Township. On December 6, 1996, Lower Maker Township condemned the property in order to build a public golf course. Appellees filed preliminary objections challenging the validity of using eminent domain for such a purpose. That issue was eventually appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which found the taking was for a legitimate public use. As the parties were unable to agree on damages, the matter proceeded to a jury trial for a calculation of the property's value. The trial lasted six days, and a total of 11 witnesses were called, one of whom was appellee Chester Dalgewicz. Mr. Dalgewicz testified regarding the farm's history and the interest shown by several developers in purchasing the property, and described some of the offers received both before and after the property was condemned, including a 1995 agreement of sale with Ryland Homes for $5.1 million, and a 1998 sales agreement with Toll Brothers for $7 million, contingent upon the condemnation being overturned. During Mr. Dalgewicz's testimony, he described a December, 1998 written offer from Pulte Homes, Inc., including a $8 million offer price; the offer letter was also introduced into evidence. The Township objected arguing the offer was inadmissible as it did not result in a sales agreement and any testimony concerning the offer price would be irrelevant and prejudicial. The Township appealed the Commonwealth Court's order affirming the trial court's ruling that testimony regarding a bona fide offer and the underlying offer letter itself could be introduced into evidence in a condemnation valuation trial. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts' decisions.