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: June 2017

MPC Section 617 Enables Private Enforcement Actions for Violations of Any Ordinance Created Under the MPC

In this appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County, the Commonwealth Court was asked to determine whether § 617 of the Municipalities Planning Code (“MPC”) permits a private cause of action to enforce a SALDO violation. In reversing the trial court’s determination, the Court held that MPC § 617 permits private enforcement actions for violations of any ordinance established pursuant to the MPC.

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City’s Determination That an Application was Complete Rendered the Pending Ordinance Doctrine Inapplicable

In this zoning appeal originating before the Zoning Board of Adjustment in Philadelphia, the Commonwealth Court was asked to determine the applicability of the pending ordinance doctrine when post submission revisions have been made to plans after the proposed zoning amendment is deemed pending by the Zoning Ordinance. In finding that the doctrine did not apply, the court concluded that the determination of the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections (“L&I”) that the application was complete when filed, overcame objecting neighbors’ arguments that the revisions made the doctrine applicable.

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Transient Lodging Enterprise Permitted under Single Family Residential Dwelling Use

In this appeal out of Monroe County, the Commonwealth Court was asked to determine whether the ZHB and Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County properly interpreted the Township’s Zoning Ordinance as excluding transient lodging enterprises in districts where only a single-family dwelling use was permitted.  In reversing the trial court’s affirmation of the ZHB’s decision, the Court found that such a use, pursuant to the definitions in the Ordinance, was permitted.

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Court Approval Required for Borough to Sell Public Park for Mixed Use Development

In this opinion by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the Court was asked to determine whether three statutory provisions — the “Donated or Dedicated Property Act” (“DDPA”), the “Project 70 Land Acquisition and Borrowing Act” (“Project 70 Act”), and the Eminent Domain Code — permitted Downingtown Borough (the “Borough”) to sell Borough owned and maintained parkland to private Developers, and to grant Developers easements over portions retained by the Borough. In reversing and remanding the Commonwealth Court’s decision, the Court held the Eminent Domain Code was inapplicable to the Borough’s right to sell properties acquired by condemnation, and court approval was required to sell properties acquired with Project 70 Act funds and to grant easements across park land pursuant to DDPA.

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City Not Immune from Liability for Negligence of City Employees During Excavation That Caused Collapse of Utility’s Conduit Bank

In this appeal out of Berks County, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was asked to construe the language of the utility service facilities exception (“Utility Exception”) to governmental immunity contained in the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act (“Tort Claims Act”). Finding the Commonwealth Court erred by not applying the Utility Exception, the Court reversed.

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Diversion of Oil and Gas Proceeds to General Fund Was Violation of Environmental Rights Amendment

In this direct appeal from a decision of the Commonwealth Court, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the text of the Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution (Art. 1, § 27) was the appropriate standard of judicial review for determining the constitutionality of Commonwealth agency actions. In so ruling, the Court expressly rejected the balancing test established by the Commonwealth Court in Payne v. Kassab, 312 A.2d 86 (Pa. Commw. 1973), which had been used for decades to determine whether state action was in violation of the Environmental Rights Amendment.

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Motor Vehicle Recordings Created By Police at Accident Scenes Not Exempt From Disclosure under RTKL and CHRIA

In this appeal from the final determination of the Office of Open Records (“OOR”) the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined that motor vehicle recordings (“MVRs”) created by Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”) officers responding to an auto accident were not per se protected from disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”) as “criminal investigative records,” nor were they per se protected “investigative records” under the Criminal History Record Information Act (“CHRIA”).

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Mandamus Actions Appropriate Vehicle to Enforce Unappealed OOR Determinations

In this petition to enforce a final determination of the Office of Open Records (“OOR”) the Commonwealth Court was asked to determine how can enforce OOR determinations where no appeal has been taken of that determination.  The Court concluded that a mandamus action, not a petition to enforce, was the appropriate legal vehicle, but found no error in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County’s denial of the petition on the merits.

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Information Voluntarily Submitted to an Agency and Not Needed to Perform the Agency’s Duties Was Not a “Record” Under the RTKL

In this appeal from a determination of the Office of Open Records (OOR), the Commonwealth Court found that information voluntarily submitted to a Commonwealth agency and which was not needed by the agency to perform its duties, did not constitute a “record” under the RTKL.  As such, the requested information did not have to be disclosed.

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