In this case out of Susquehanna County, the Commonwealth Court determined that where a subdivision and land development ordinance (SALDO) does not impose a mandate upon a municipality to enforce it, the municipality cannot be compelled to enforce the SALDO by a writ of mandamus.  The court also determined that where a lease does not convey a discrete portion of land to a lessee, it does not constitute subdivision that triggers approval under the SALDO.

High Cadence owned two adjoining Properties constituting approximately 42 acres in Gibson Township. High Cadence rented portions of the Properties to a number of lessees who used the Properties for a variety of business enterprises including automobile repair, pipeline fabrication, and equipment storage. All of the leases were oral and did not convey discrete portions of the Properties; rather they permitted lessees to “use what they needed.” Neighboring property owners—the  Sinkiewiczes—complained to the County Planning Commission that the leases constituted subdivisions that required approval under the Township’s SALDO.  The Commission informed the Sinkiewiczes that it would not take any action because it had concluded the leases did not constitute subdivisions.

The Sinkiewiczes instituted a mandamus action to compel the County to require High Cadence to file a subdivision plan. The Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County denied the Sinkiewiczes’ complaint. It found that because no new buildings, streets, sewers or sewer systems were being constructed, there was no right or jurisdiction under the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) or the SALDO. The Sinkiewiczes appealed.

On appeal, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial court’s decision. It held that the SALDO did not impose a mandate upon the County to enforce the SALDO and therefore the County’s decision to undertake an enforcement action could not be compelled by a writ of mandamus. Further, the court found that because the leases granted permission to lessees to “use what they needed,” and none of the lessees constructed “buildings, streets, sewers or sewer systems,” the leases were neither a subdivision nor a development.

Click here to read: Sinkiewicz v. Susquehanna Cnty. Bd. of Commissioners, 375 C.D. 2015 (Pa. Cmmw. Ct. Dec. 30, 2015).

Edited by:

Sivertsen_BLOG Zachary A. Sivertsen, Esq.