In this land use appeal from Chester County, the Commonwealth Court upheld the denial of an Objector’s appeal from a decision of the East Nantmeal Township Board of Supervisors, which approved an amendment to a subdivision.
Appellees Brandt Rempe and Emily Landis (“Developer”) own a property in East Nantmeal Township (the “Township”) in Chester County, PA. This property was originally part of a larger parcel of land owned by Daniel Stoudt (“Stoudt”). In 2008, Stoudt submitted an application for conditional use seeking a subdivision of his property into four lots and for use of the lots as single-family dwellings. Appellee, the Board of Supervisors of East Nantmeal Township (the “Board”), held a hearing in 2009 and approved Stoudt’s proposed subdivision and use subject to 10 conditions (the Board’s “2009 Decision”). One of the conditions required Board approval of landscaping. In 2016, Developer filed an Application for review of a subdivision or land development plan with the Township, seeking to amend lot 1 in the Stoudt subdivision. Developer attached a landscape plan to the application. The Township Planning Commission reviewed the plan and recommended the Board to approve it, which they subsequently did at a public meeting and in a written decision (the Board’s “2017 Decision”). A nearby property owner, Appellant Ivy Krug (“Objector”), appealed the Board’s approval of the plan to the trial court, which affirmed without taking additional evidence. Objector then Appealed to the Commonwealth Court. On appeal, Objector argued that: (1) the Board’s decision violates three conditions of the 2009 decision and multiple provisions of the Township Zoning Ordinance; (2) the Board did not have subject matter jurisdiction to grant a waiver under the zoning ordinance to the landscape requirements; and (3) the Board’s approval of the plan violated procedural due process.
Regarding Objector’s first claim, Objector first argued that the 2017 Decision violated the 2009 Decision, because the 2009 Decision required that “the single-family detached dwelling proposed for Lot 1 be moved as far to the south as possible,” and Developer’s plan showed the dwelling being moved 18 feet to the north. The Court rejected this argument, finding that the 2017 Decision stated that it “approves only a modification of the landscape plan” and did not approve any other modification of the plan. Second, Objector argued that the 2017 Decision violated certain landscape buffer requirements set forth in several provisions of the zoning ordinance with which the 2009 Decision mandates compliance. The Court also rejected this claim. In the 2017 Decision, the Board found that these requirements did not apply to Developer’s property based on the plain language of the zoning ordinance. The Court agreed that the Board did not abuse its discretion or commit an error of law in its interpretation. The Court similarly rejected Objector’s third claim regarding the Board’s supposed waiver of the landscape buffer requirements on this basis. The Court held that since the Board determined that the landscape buffer requirements did not apply based on its plain terms, the Board did not rely on the waiver provision. Fourth, Objector argued that the 2017 is invalid because it illegitimately amended the 2009 Decision without following the proper procedure for amendment. The Court rejected this argument because Objector’s property is not a part of the Stoudt subdivision, and since she is not a party to the 2009 Decision, she cannot seek to enforce it. Finally the Court concluded that the Board did not violate Objector’s procedural due process in allowing a revision of the conditions previously imposed on the lot at a routine meeting without following the public notice and public hearing requirements imposed by the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) and the Township zoning ordinance. The Court agreed with the lower court’s determination that the Board was not required to hold a public hearing, and therefore did not violate Objector’s procedural due process rights.