This blog features case law related to real estate, land use, zoning, and municipal law in Pennsylvania

Tag: Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (Page 1 of 2)

Variance to Redevelop Mostly Vacant, Dilapidated Warehouse Affirmed Despite Property Owner Failing to Offer Evidence of Equitable Ownership at Hearing

In this variance case out of Philadelphia, an objecting neighbor appealed the grant of a use variance by the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment (“ZBA”) to redevelop a partially vacant and underutilized former industrial building into a mixed use multi-family residential building.  Following an affirmance by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Objector appealed to Commonwealth Court. The Commonwealth Court condensed the issues raised on appeal down to whether the applicant, Hightop Brown, LLC, had standing, and whether there was sufficient evidence to grant the requested variance.  The Commonwealth Court affirmed ZBA’s decision.

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Municipalities Not Immune from Adverse Possession Claims

In a property dispute between the City of Philadelphia and Francis Galdo, the Commonwealth Court ruled that the City of Philadelphia is not immune from claims of adverse possession where it is simply holding property for possible future sale.  This dispute centers upon a small, rectangular piece of undeveloped land that was condemned by the City in 1974 on behalf of the Commonwealth in relation to the construction of Interstate 95. Galdo purchased a property across the street from the property in 1989 and began using it for storage, parties, and parking.  Galdo made a variety of improvements to the property over the years: pouring concrete slabs, installing and (later) removing a fence, installing storage trailers, building a fire pit/brick barbeque and pavilion, and creating a volleyball court, horseshoe pits, and a treehouse.  In 2014 the City filed an ejectment action against Galdo, who responded with a counterclaim to quiet title, claiming ownership by adverse possession.  The trial court ruled in favor of the City, concluding Galdo could not claim title to the Property because the City had condemned the property at the behest of the Commonwealth, and because claims of adverse possession cannot lie against the Commonwealth or its agents, and the Property was devoted to public use.

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Reversal of ZBA Special Exception Denial Based on Speculative, Lay Opinion Affirmed

In this case out of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the reversal of a Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment (“ZBA”) decision to deny special exception approval to a developer to construct a Dunkin Donuts near the intersection of Broad Street and Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia.  Monroe Land Investments (“Monroe”) filed a special exception application to redevelop a former 7-11 and Napa auto parts store into a Dunkin Donuts coffee shop.

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City’s Determination That an Application was Complete Rendered the Pending Ordinance Doctrine Inapplicable

In this zoning appeal originating before the Zoning Board of Adjustment in Philadelphia, the Commonwealth Court was asked to determine the applicability of the pending ordinance doctrine when post submission revisions have been made to plans after the proposed zoning amendment is deemed pending by the Zoning Ordinance. In finding that the doctrine did not apply, the court concluded that the determination of the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections (“L&I”) that the application was complete when filed, overcame objecting neighbors’ arguments that the revisions made the doctrine applicable.

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Temporary Beer Garden Not Nuisance Per Se In Residential Zoning District

In this case out of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth Court was asked to weigh in on whether the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County appropriately granted a preliminary injunction to allow the continued operation of a temporary beer garden in a residential zone while it applied for certain required zoning permits and certifications.  In affirming the court’s decision that a preliminary injunction was warranted, the court found that locating a beer garden in a residentially zoned area was not a per se public nuisance, and that the City had failed to prove the use constituted a nuisance or endangered the public health or safety.

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Uniform Condominium Act Applies Retroactively To Declarations Enacted Under Predecessor Statute Where No Conflict Exists Between Declaration And UCA Provision

In this dispute between a condominium association council and three condominium owners, the Superior Court was asked to determine whether a provision of the Uniform Condominium Act (UCA) requiring a two-thirds majority vote of owners to amend a Declaration of Condominium, applied retroactively to a Declaration enacted under its precursor, the Unit Property Act (UPA). The Superior Court concluded that because the Declaration was silent about the percentage required for Declaration amendments, no conflict existed between it and the UCA, and thus the UCA provision governed Declaration amendments, requiring a two-thirds vote..

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Housing Cooperative Board Acted Outside Scope of Authority By Enacting Two-Unit Ownership Policy For Members without Amending Bylaws

In this matter, the Commonwealth Court was asked to decide whether a housing cooperative board can impose a limitation on the number of dwelling units individual members can own. The court determined that such a policy was not authorized because the cooperative’s bylaws did not contain any such limitation. Such a policy, the court concluded, could only be imposed as an amendment to the cooperative’s bylaws.

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