In this appeal from the denial of a mandatory sketch plan, the Commonwealth Court was asked to determine whether § 917 of the Municipalities Planning Code (“MPC”) imposes an absolute 6-month deadline for acting upon a special exception approval to prevent subsequently adopted ordinance amendments from becoming applicable to the underlying project. In reversing the decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, the Commonwealth Court found that the 6-month deadline was not absolute and could be extended by a municipality in its zoning ordinance.
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.