Honey Brook Estates (“Developer”) owned a 39.9-acre parcel in the Township. On May 15, 2006 Developer learned the Township planned to rezone most of Developer’s property from residential to agricultural, and that a public hearing on the zoning amendment was scheduled for June 14. On June 13 Developer submitted a preliminary subdivision plan to the Township, but was informed by the Township Engineer on June 20 that the plan was incomplete. Ten days later Developer submitted an amended plan correcting the 5 omissions cited by the Township Engineer. On July 5 the Township amended its zoning ordinance, rezoning most of Developer’s property. On July 10 the Township Manager again rejected developer’s plan as incomplete, citing three additional reasons, and informing Developer its plan would not enter the review cycle. Despite communicating this to Developer, Manager then forwarded the plan to the Planning Commission for review, and attached a cover letter making 93 critical “comments” about the plan. The Commission considered the application at its meeting on August 24—which Developer failed to attend—and recommended the plan not be approved. When Developer submitted additional supporting documents to the Manager to address his July 10 rejection, Manager informed Developer that the Commission had already recommended the plan be denied. On September 13, the Board of Supervisors voted to reject the amended preliminary plan, citing 59 reasons for its decision. Developer appealed.
The Court of Common Pleas of Chester County permitted additional evidence regarding the Township’s processing of Developer’s plan and whether Developer was afforded a reasonable opportunity to modify its plan. The trial court subsequently affirmed the Board’s decision. It found that the Township’s actions did not rise to the level of bad faith, and, even if bad faith had been shown, Developer’s amended plan was incapable of being revised to the Township’s satisfaction. The trial court did not identify which reasons for rejection were incapable of correction. Developer again appealed.
On appeal, the Commonwealth Court reversed. It rejected the trial court’s conclusion and found the Township’s actions demonstrated bad faith because the plan had been rejected without giving Developer an opportunity to confer with the Township and respond to its objections. The court further found that the three issues raised by the Township on appeal that were incapable of correction could be easily addressed by Developer and did not establish that the plan was facially defective and incapable of meeting the requirements of the Township’s land use ordinances.
Click here to read: Honey Brook Estates, LLC v. Bd. of Supervisors of Honey Brook Twp., 1258 C.D. 2014 (Pa. Cmmw. Ct. Jan. 13, 2016).
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