The DiMattias were issued a zoning violation notice for using a garage and driveway on a residential property they owned in the Township’s R-1 Low Density Residential Zoning District to prepare, repair, and transport race cars. When Landowners purchased the Property in 2009, it contained a single-family detached residence and two garages.  Landowners erected a large pole barn in 2010, and rented out the residence.  In November 2014 the Township issued a notice of violation alleging Landowners were servicing vehicles on the Property from an automobile repair business they owned, and were working on race cars on the Property. The notice directed Landowners to cease and desist their use of the garages and driveway for “servicing vehicles, working on race cars and trailer storage.” Landowners appealed the violation notice to the Township’s Zoning Hearing Board (“ZHB”). The ZHB sustained Landowners’ appeal related to servicing vehicles from their business, but denied it as to their race car activities. The ZHB concluded that their race car activities did not qualify as an accessory use in the R-1 district. Landowners appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, which affirmed the ZHB decision, and Landowners appealed to the Commonwealth Court.


On appeal, the Commonwealth Court again affirmed the ZHB’s decision.  It reasoned that Landowners’ activities could not be considered an accessory use because Landowners did not reside on the Property, and their activities were for their own personal benefit and enjoyment rather than that of their tenants. The Court disregarded Landowners’ argument that their race car activities were allowed as an accessory private garage—a permitted accessory use in the R-1 district. The Court concluded the structure was not at issue, but rather the activity being conducted by Landowners. The Court reasoned that the definition of a “private garage” in the Zoning Ordinance merely contemplated “storage” of vehicles; not building, repairing, or transporting them.  Finally, the Court disagreed with Landowners’ argument that because their activities were merely a hobby and not a commercial use, it qualified as an accessory use.  Whether an activity is commercial or a hobby, was not determinative of whether it was an accessory use.

Click here to read: DiMattia v. ZHB of E. Whiteland Twp., 1163 CD 2016 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Aug. 9, 2017).

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