In this appeal from Philadelphia County, the Commonwealth Court determined that the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County correctly quashed an appeal from the issuance of a permit by the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections (“L&I”), where the applicant abandoned the permit.
L&I issued a permit for the erection of a non-accessory sign on property owned by the city. Appellants filed an appeal to the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment (“ZBA”) challenging the permit. The ZBA held a hearing where Appellants challenged the ordinance under which the ZBA issued the permit. After the hearing, the ZBA denied the appeal and Appellants appealed to the lower court. Meanwhile, Appellees requested to abandon the permit, and filed a motion to quash the appeal, claiming that the appeal was moot. The lower court granted Appellees’ motion to quash, and Appellants appealed to the Commonwealth Court. Appellants claimed that the lower court erred in dismissing the appeal as moot because the underlying issues are of public importance and are likely to recur but will evade judicial review, so that the lower court could review the issue presented in the appeal regardless of mootness.
On appeal, the Commonwealth Court ruled that the lower court correctly quashed the appeal as moot. As to the first mootness exception, the Court determined that there was no issue capable of repetition but likely to evade review. That exception applies where “the duration of the challenged action is too short to be fully litigated prior to its cessation or expiration, and there is a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party will be subjected to the same action again.” The Court found this exception did not apply because the Philadelphia Zoning Code provides an appeals process where parties may appeal and challenge the granting of a permit, thus making it unlikely that the legal controversy would expire before an aggrieved party can obtain relief. As to the second exception, the Court held that the “public importance” exception very rarely applies and only applies in cases where exceptional circumstances exist. The Court found this case did involve a concrete harm to society, which would implicate this exception.