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: October 2015 (page 1 of 2)

Standing Challenges In Home Rule Jurisdictions Must Be Made Before The Trial Court, Not The ZHB/ZBA

In a zoning case out of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court cleared up some lingering confusion over the differing “aggrieved person” standards applied in Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) versus Home Rule jurisdictions. The court determined that while challenges to standing had to be raised before the zoning appeals board in MPC jurisdictions, in Home Rule jurisdictions they could be raised before the trial court.

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Where Parks And Playgrounds Can Go, So Can Churches

In this federal magistrate decision, the court found that permitting parks, playgrounds, and educational institutions, but not religious assemblies, in a zoning district constituted a violation of the Equal Terms provision of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”).

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Cracks in Your Water Pipes Don’t Have to Mean Higher Sewer Bills

This recent decision out of the Commonwealth Court dealt with the reasonableness of sewer rates charged to property owners with extraordinarily high water usage. The court found that where sewer bills are tied exclusively to metered water use, property owners can challenge higher sewer bills by showing the increased water usage is not reaching the sewer system.

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Property Owners Not “Required To Connect” Until Connection Notices Are Sent

In this case out of Franklin County, the Commonwealth Court found that property owners were not “required to connect” under a mandatory water connection ordinance until they were actually issued connection notices; not when the water line was completed. Therefore when a municipal water authority sent notices after the effective date of a statute giving property owners abutting existing lines an exemption from connecting, the property owners qualified for the exemption and did not have to connect.

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City Cannot Require Utilities to Provide Maps of all Facilities Within City’s Rights-of-Way

This was the companion case of PPL Electric Utilities Corporation v. City of Lancaster, 462 MD 2013 (Pa. Cmmw. Ct. Oct. 15, 2015). The facts, issues, and arguments advanced by UGI and the City of Lancaster were substantially the same as those set forth and disposed of in PPL. In PPL the Commonwealth Court held that the City was permitted to impose an annual maintenance fee upon utility companies for use and occupancy of its municipal Rights-of-Way.

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Municipalities Can Charge Utilities Annual Maintenance Fee for Use of Right-Of-Way

Municipalities may soon have a new tool for getting utility companies to chip in for road maintenance costs resulting from the maintenance of utility lines in municipal rights-of-way. In a split decision, the Commonwealth Court decided that such fees were not preempted by the Public Utility Code (the Code), and may be imposed upon utility companies as long as they are reasonable and not a tax.

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Employees—Not Dirt and Soil—Were Cause of Dangerous Condition, So Municipality Was Not Liable

In this case the Commonwealth Court was asked to weigh in on the statutory exceptions to the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act (Act). The court determined that where the conduct of a municipality’s employees is the underlying cause of a dangerous condition, the municipality is immune from liability under the Act.

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Just Because a Sidewalk is There, Doesn’t Mean its Public

In a case out of Greene County, the Commonwealth Court was asked to weigh in on a citation appeal related to a property owner covering a sidewalk on his property with a flower bed.  The court determined that the municipality had to actually prove the sidewalk was public for the citation to be valid.

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Perfection of Zoning Appeals More About Substance Than Form

Palencar was issued an enforcement notice that certain structures on his property required zoning permits.  He submitted an application/appeal form indicating a variance was requested, but not that Palencar wished to appeal the enforcement notice. Prior to the hearing Palencar’s attorney phoned the ZHB Solicitor and indicated Palencar also wanted to appeal the enforcement notice. The ZHB published notice of the hearing stating it would consider an appeal “from the zoning officer’s determination.” A hearing was held and the ZHB found Palencar had violated the ordinance and upheld the enforcement notice.  Palencar appealed.

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Show Up, Testify … You’ve “Participated”

The Commonwealth Court was recently asked to weigh in on what exactly constitutes sufficient “participation” in a zoning hearing to grant a party standing to appeal.  In overturning the lower court’s decision, the Commonwealth Court effectively said “not much.”

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