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: December 2016

No Liability Under Section 13 and 15 of Storm Water Management Act Unless County Watershed Storm Water Plan in Place

In this interlocutory appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, the Commonwealth Court was asked to interpret the Storm Water Management Act (the “Act”).  Precisely, the court was asked to determine whether a county watershed storm water plan must be in place for a defendant to be liable for violations of Sections 13 and 15 of the Act. In finding that such a plan was a prerequisite to liability, the court affirmed the trial court’s determination and limited liability to flooding instances after such a plan was in place.

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One Year SOL in Urban Redevelopment Law Not Repealed by Act 34

In this appeal out of Fayette County, the Commonwealth Court was asked to determine which of two conflicting statutes of limitations (“SOL”) applied to petitions for the appointment of a board of viewers following a municipal authority’s declaration of taking and payment of just compensation.  In finding that the 1 year SOL within the Urban Redevelopment Law (“URL”) was applicable, the court found that this statute had not been expressly or impliedly repealed by Act 34 which had repealed and replaced the Eminent Domain Code.

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Windows and Doors Ordinance Ruled Improper Use of Police Power, Purely Concerned with Aesthetics

Presented with a challenge to the City of Philadelphia’s Windows and Doors Ordinance (the “Ordinance”), the Commonwealth Court ruled that the Ordinance was an improper exercise of the City’s police power because it was purely concerned with aesthetics, rather than the safety risks posed by blight.

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RTKL Request Found to be too Vague to Require Production by Department of Corrections

In this Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”) appeal from the Office of Open Records (“OOR”), the Commonwealth Court was asked to evaluate when a request is too vague such that an agency is not required to respond.  In finding that the request at issue was too vague, the court reasoned that an overly broad request that does not identify a specific transaction or activity for which the record is being sought, provides no context to guide the agency’s record search and does not require production.

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Court Denies Summary Relief to Further Develop Record as to Extent of DOC’s Noncompliance with OOR Determination

In this Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”) case arising from an appeal to the Office of Open Records (“OOR”), the Commonwealth Court was presented with a petition alleging that a state agency had failed to disclose all responsive records, as ordered by OOR, and a request for statutory sanctions.  In denying cross motions for summary relief, the court chose to allow the matter to develop further to determine the extent of the Department of Corrections’ (“DOC”) noncompliance with the OOR final determination.

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Municipalities Cannot Regulate Illegal Firearm Possession on Municipal Property

In this matter arising out of Montgomery County, the Commonwealth Court was presented with an appeal of a municipal ordinance that prohibited the carrying or discharging of firearms in municipal parks.  Finding the ordinance violated the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act (the “UFA”), the court held that municipalities cannot regulate firearm possession in any manner, absent a grant of direct statutory authority from the General Assembly, regardless of whether such possession is legal or not.

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Existence of Man-Made Improvements Not Sufficient Hardship to Warrant Variance

In this zoning appeal out of Bucks County. the Commonwealth Court was asked whether the existence of man-made improvements that exceeded the permitted impervious coverage on a property could constitute a sufficient hardship to warrant the issuance of a variance. In concluding that such improvements could not, the court held that generally for a unique condition to warrant a variance it must relate to the physical conditions of the land itself and not to man-made improvements, such as poured asphalt and concrete.

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Volunteering Time and Temporary Use of Property Exempt From RTKL Disclosure

In this decision out of Allegheny County the Commonwealth Court was presented with the question of whether the volunteering of time or services, and the permitting of temporary government use of property without compensation constitutes a “donation” to a government agency that falls under the donor exception to the Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”). In reversing the final determination of the Office of Open Records (“OOR”), the court found that because there was no express limitation on the type of donations exempted from disclosure within the RTKL, such donations were exempt from disclosure.

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Failure to Issue Written Decision Means 30-Day Appeal Period Never Began to Run on Development Approval

This matter, arising out of Allegheny County, dealt with whether a written decision must be issued for the appeal period of a land development decision to begin to run.  In reversing the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County’s decision, the Commonwealth Court determined that until a written decision is issued by the adjudicatory body, there is no order to appeal and thus the appeal period cannot begin to run.

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Order Granting Declaratory Relief Related to Uniform Planned Community Declaration Not Subject to Motion to Compel

In this dispute over the placement of air conditioning equipment, the Commonwealth Court was presented with an appeal from a trial court’s order to compel compliance with its earlier order declaring a property owner was subject to certain provisions of a uniform planned community declaration.  In reversing the order, the court held that because the earlier order had granted declaratory relief, it could not have directed any specific action by the property owner and thus the community association’s motion to compel was premature. Continue reading