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: March 2017

Municipalities Cannot File Enforcement Actions Until All Appeals of Underlying Violation Exhausted

In this zoning enforcement dispute out of Montgomery County, the Borough of West Conshohocken sought to obtain $130,500 in penalties for an ongoing zoning violation that had accrued while the property owner’s challenged the violation notice in court.  Concluding that the enforcement action was premature, the Commonwealth Court held that the Borough was not entitled to impose fines while the underlying appeal remained pending.

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Accidental Discharge of Runoff onto Property by Township Was Not a De Facto Taking

In this takings case out of Bucks County, the Commonwealth Court was asked to determine whether the inadvertent redirection of storm water onto a property constituted a de facto taking that would require the municipality to pay just compensation. In concluding the resultant flooding did not rise to the level of a de facto taking, the Court concluded that although the municipality had intentionally redirected runoff, the choice of discharge locations had not been intentional and did not warrant an award of just compensation.

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Government Agency’s Preservation Requirement to Redevelop Property It Owned Was Insufficient Hardship for Variance

In this zoning appeal out of Alleghany County, the Commonwealth Court was asked whether preservation requirements imposed by a government agency on property that it owned, may constitute an unnecessary hardship to justify a variance.  In concluding such a hardship is self-imposed and does not warrant a variance, the court focused on the fact that no legal authority required preservation, and that the more appropriate solution was for the City to rezone the site rather than have the applicant seek a variance.

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Right-of-Way Constituted “Street” to Satisfy “Lot Width at Street Line” Requirement in Zoning Ordinance

In this appeal from a preliminary opinion of Lower Merion Township, the Commonwealth Court was asked to determine what constituted a “street” when a zoning ordinance requires a specific “lot width at street line.”  In finding that a right-of-way allowing access to a land-locked property constituted a “street” for purposes of determining lot width at street line, the court held that the two requirements for a “street” were that the right-of-way provide: (1) a means for vehicular travel, and (2) space for sewers and public utilities.

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Narrow Side-Yard Insufficient Unnecessary Hardship to Warrant Variance for Front Yard Parking Space

In this challenge of the grant of a variance by the City of Philadelphia’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (“ZBA”), the Commonwealth Court ruled that a narrow side-yard and district-wide parking restrictions did not amount to an unnecessary hardship that would warrant a variance to locate a parking space within the front-yard setback.

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Balancing Test Necessary Before Release of Home Addresses from RTKL Request

In this appeal of a final determination of the Office of Open Records (“OOR”), the Commonwealth Court remanded a determination granting access to the home addresses of certain members of the State Employees’ Retirement System (“SERS”).  The Court held that its decision in Pennsylvania State Education Association v. Office of Open Records, 148 A.3d 142 (Pa. 2016) (“PSEA III”) was controlling, and, as PSEA III had been issued after OOR had rendered its final determination, the matter should be remanded to allow OOR to reevaluate whether dissemination was warranted.

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Tenants Consent Sufficient Grounds to Perform Municipal Inspection of Property Without Warrant or Landlord’s Permission

In this case out of Luzerne County, the Commonwealth Court was presented with a claim that a municipality had violated a landlord’s constitutional rights by performing an inspection of his property without an administrative warrant, and without his consent.  In finding no violation had occurred, the Court concluded that the tenant’s consent to perform the inspection satisfied the constitutional requirements and no violation had occurred.

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