In this appeal from a preliminary opinion of Lower Merion Township, the Commonwealth Court was asked to determine what constituted a “street” when a zoning ordinance requires a specific “lot width at street line.” In finding that a right-of-way allowing access to a land-locked property constituted a “street” for purposes of determining lot width at street line, the court held that the two requirements for a “street” were that the right-of-way provide: (1) a means for vehicular travel, and (2) space for sewers and public utilities.
Jerrehian (“Landowner”) owned an undeveloped property that had been created by a 1950s partition by the Orphans’ Court in an estate settlement. A 50-foot right-of-way extended across the Property, onto an adjacent property, and connected it to a nearby street. The right-of-way was the only means of accessing the Property, and a driveway had been created on part of it. Landowner submitted a proposed development plan to Lower Merion Township for a single-family home on the Property. The Township issued a preliminary opinion, finding the plan complied with the zoning ordinance. Neighboring property owners (“Objectors”) appealed the Township opinion to the Zoning Hearing Board (“ZHB”), arguing that: (1) the Property had not been properly subdivided, (2) the Property had merged with an abutting property when both properties were under previous common ownership, and (3) the Property did not satisfy the dimensional requirements for a single-family home. Specifically, Objectors claimed the Property did not satisfy the lot width requirement at the “street line” because no “street” abutted the Property. The ZHB rejected the arguments related to the creation of the lot and merger, but upheld the appeal as to lot width at the street line, finding that no “street” existed. Landowner appealed, and the trial court affirmed.
Landowner further appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court’s decision. The court rejected the conclusion that the right-of-way did not constitute a “street.” A “street,” the court concluded, must provide the “means” for vehicular travel and furnish the “space” for sewers and public utilities. As the right-of-way met both requirements, it was considered a street under these circumstances. The court affirmed the ZHB and trial court’s rejection of the validity and merger arguments.
Click here to read: In Re Appeals of Jerrehian, 409, 417, 471 CD 2016 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Mar. 6, 2017).