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: January 2016

Prepayment Demands For RTKL Responses Do Not Have To Be Made In Initial Response To Requestor

This case presents a matter of first impression regarding the timeframe within which an agency may demand prepayment under § 1307(h) of the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL). The court found that while a prepayment demand does not have to be made in an agency’s first response to a RTKL request, it can only be made after a full legal review has been completed.

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Condemnation Plans Can Be Reauthorized If Declaration Of Taking Not Filed Within One Year

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In this case out of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth Court was asked to apply and interpret § 302(e) of the Eminent Domain Code. The court determined that the requirement of § 302(e) that a declaration of taking be filed within one year of being authorized did not function like a statute of limitations and that condemnation only had to be reauthorized after the one year time limit had lapsed.

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Denial Of Opportunity To Confer With Municipality And Respond To Preliminary Plan Objections Equals Bad Faith By Municipality

Honey Brook Estates (“Developer”) owned a 39.9-acre parcel in the Township.  On May 15, 2006 Developer learned the Township planned to rezone most of Developer’s property from residential to agricultural, and that a public hearing on the zoning amendment was scheduled for June 14. On June 13 Developer submitted a preliminary subdivision plan to the Township, but was informed by the Township Engineer on June 20 that the plan was incomplete. Ten days later Developer submitted an amended plan correcting the 5 omissions cited by the Township Engineer. On July 5 the Township amended its zoning ordinance, rezoning most of Developer’s property. On July 10 the Township Manager again rejected developer’s plan as incomplete, citing three additional reasons, and informing Developer its plan would not enter the review cycle. Despite communicating this to Developer, Manager then forwarded the plan to the Planning Commission for review, and attached a cover letter making 93 critical “comments” about the plan. The Commission considered the application at its meeting on August 24—which Developer failed to attend—and recommended the plan not be approved. When Developer submitted additional supporting documents to the Manager to address his July 10 rejection, Manager informed Developer that the Commission had already recommended the plan be denied. On September 13, the Board of Supervisors voted to reject the amended preliminary plan, citing 59 reasons for its decision. Developer appealed.

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OOR Has Broad Discretion To Order In Camera Review Of Documents Withheld From RTKL Disclosure Based On Privilege

In this interlocutory appeal from a decision of the Office of Open Records (OOR), the Commonwealth Court held that government entities withholding information subject to a Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) request must provide affidavits with sufficient information to demonstrate why the information is non-disclosable or OOR has broad discretion to order in camera review of the information at issue.

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Legally Nonconforming School Bus Depot Could Be Permissibly Changed To Commercial Truck Depot

In this nonconforming use case out of Westmoreland County, the Commonwealth Court found that use of a legally nonconforming school bus depot could be permissibly changed to a commercial truck depot with incidental storage of roll-off boxes and other containers.

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Concerns About Gas Emissions From Compressor Station Not Enough To Be “Substantial Threat To Community”

The Commonwealth Court found in this case that mere “concerns” about gas emissions from a proposed compressor station were insufficient to establish a substantial threat to the community that would justify the denial of a conditional use application.

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Report By Township Manager Of Hypothetical Waste Insufficient For Whistleblower Act Protection

Sukenik was the Manager of the Township of Elizabeth (“Manager”). He became involved in a dispute between the Township Board President and the Chief of Police. The President attempted to micromanage police affairs and disrupt the administration of the police department, eventually calling for a 4-year forensic audit of the department. On several occasions the President unilaterally directed the Manager to oppose the Chief’s decisions. Following an executive session of the Board, from which the Manager was excluded, the Manager drafted a letter to the Board reiterating his concerns about interfering with the police department and that the forensic audit would be a substantial waste of taxpayer funds. After initially authorizing the audit, the Board eventually abandoned it. Approximately two months later the Board terminated the Manager.

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Municipalities Cannot Use Zoning To Prohibit Violent Offenders From Work-Release Facilities

In this case out of Dauphin County the Commonwealth Court held that municipalities cannot prohibit through zoning regulations the placement of violent offenders into work-release programs within their jurisdiction.

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Auditors Cannot Revisit Approval Of Supervisor-Employee Participation In Pension Plans

In this case out of Pike County, the Commonwealth Court determined that a current Board of Auditors could not rescind a past Board of Auditor’s approval for supervisor-employees to participate in a Township pension plan, despite not being presented with the specific pension plan adopted by the municipality. Further, the court held that such pension plans were not compensation of the elected office and therefore supervisor-employees who adopted the plan did not have to be reelected to participate in it.

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