In a zoning case out of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court cleared up some lingering confusion over the differing “aggrieved person” standards applied in Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) versus Home Rule jurisdictions. The court determined that while challenges to standing had to be raised before the zoning appeals board in MPC jurisdictions, in Home Rule jurisdictions they could be raised before the trial court.
FT Holdings, L.P. (“FT”) sought several variances from the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment (“ZBA”). At the ensuing application hearing Scott objected to the requested variances. After the ZBA granted the variances, Scott appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. FT challenged Scott’s standing to appeal, arguing that he was not a “person aggrieved” by the ZBA’s decision as was required by § 17.1 of the Home Rule Act. Scott responded by claiming FT’s standing challenge was waived because he had not raised it before the ZBA. In making this argument Scott relied on a line of cases that arose under the MPC, which does not apply to the City of Philadelphia.
The trial court agreed with FT and dismissed Scott’s appeal. It held that FT was not required to object to Scott’s standing before the ZBA and that Scott was not a “person aggrieved” by the ZBA’s decision. It rejected the MPC definition of a “person aggrieved” put forward by Scott as inapplicable in Philadelphia, and applied the term as defined in William Penn Parking Garage, Inc. v. City of Pittsburgh, 346 A.2d 269 (Pa. 2009) and applied in Spahn v. Zoning Bd. of Adjustment, 977 A.2d 1132, 1149 (Pa. 2009). Scott appealed this decision to the Commonwealth Court, who reversed. The Commonwealth Court found that FT was required to challenge Scott’s standing before the ZBA, and by failing to do so had waived the objection. FT sought, and was granted, review by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with the trial court and reversed the Commonwealth Court’s decision. It found that in Home Rule jurisdictions standing challenges did not have to be made before the zoning board of appeals. Rather, the “aggrieved person” standard used in these jurisdictions could only be determined after the board of appeals had issued its decision. This meant that the earliest point at which a standing challenge could be made was before the trial court. It remanded the case to the Commonwealth Court to rule on whether Scott was a “person aggrieved” under the Home Rule Act.
Click here to read: Scott v. City of Phila. ZBA, 57 EAP 2014 (Pa. Oct. 29, 2015).