Pennsylvania Real Estate, Land Use, Zoning, and Municipal Lawyers

This blog features case law related to real estate, land use, zoning, and municipal law in Pennsylvania

Month: September 2015

Hypothetical Uses, Remediation Agreements, and Environmental Stigma Considerations in Determining FMV for Tax Purposes

In this case the Pennsylvania Supreme Court provided more clarity as to what may be considered in the valuation of a property with environmental damage for tax purposes. Specifically, the court held that the hypothetical ways a property can be used by potential buyers is a permissible consideration, as are any environmental remediation agreements and the environmental stigma associated with the property due to the damage.

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Better Present All of Your Evidence to the Hearing Board, Otherwise the Courts Won’t Have It

In this case out of Montour County the Commonwealth Court held that the trial court could not hold a de novo hearing where the appellant refused to present testimony or evidence to the local hearing board. It also found that the repeal and replacement of an ordinance did not make the prior collection of fees under the repealed ordinance retroactive and void ab initio.

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Police Videos of Traffic Stops Can Be Disclosed Under RTKL

The Commonwealth Court recently held that there is no blanket exemption for “Mobile Video Recordings” (MVRs) of traffic stops under the Right to Know Law’s (RTKL) “criminal investigation” exemption and that videos of stops that result in no traffic citation are not exempt from disclosure.

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Next to a sewer line? Better connect.

The Commonwealth Court recently determined that when applying mandatory connection ordinances, adjoining or adjacent property owners are subject to the ordinance regardless of how far their “principal building” is from the sewer line. It further held that difficulty in connecting to a sewer line is not grounds for exempting property owners from the ordinance.

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Evidence of Economic Hardship Alone Does Not Make an “Unnecessary Hardship”

Pennswood owned an old school building that had previously been redeveloped into a personal care home.  The building was located in an R2 zone-medium density residential district. In 1986 Pennswood had obtained a variance to operate the personal care home, but due to economic factors such a use was no longer feasible. Therefore, Pennswood applied to the ZHB for a variance to permit it to operate a Treatment Center/Step Down Unit in the property. It argued the property’s prior prohibited use under the zoning ordinance constituted an unnecessary hardship that warranted a variance. The property, it argues, would be rendered almost valueless if the variance were not granted because the physical characteristics of the property limited its use to either a personal care home or a residential step down unit. Further, it presented testimony that it would not be feasible to renovate the Property for residential use as an upscale project because of the cost, the lack of parking, and the fact that that area was more commercial than residential.

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More Than Three Unrelated Individuals Still Do Not Make a “Family”

In this recent Commonwealth Court case several landlords renting single-family properties to students challenged the constitutionality of the Philadelphia Zoning Ordinance’s definition of “family.” Specifically they sought to invalidate the exclusion of “more than three persons unrelated by blood, marriage or adoption” from the definition. In the court’s decision it affirmed the general principles that in Pennsylvania the constitutionality of a zoning ordinance is subject to rational basis review and that ordinances may exclude certain living arrangements from the definition of “family” based on biological and legal bonds.

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Issuance of Non-Conforming Use Certificates Cannot be Appealed

The Commonwealth Court has determined that objectors to the issuance of a non-conforming use certificate cannot appeal such an action because a non-conforming use certificate does not constitute an “application for development” under the MPC.

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