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.
Pennswood owned an old school building that had previously been redeveloped into a personal care home. The building was located in an R2 zone-medium density residential district. In 1986 Pennswood had obtained a variance to operate the personal care home, but due to economic factors such a use was no longer feasible. Therefore, Pennswood applied to the ZHB for a variance to permit it to operate a Treatment Center/Step Down Unit in the property. It argued the property’s prior prohibited use under the zoning ordinance constituted an unnecessary hardship that warranted a variance. The property, it argues, would be rendered almost valueless if the variance were not granted because the physical characteristics of the property limited its use to either a personal care home or a residential step down unit. Further, it presented testimony that it would not be feasible to renovate the Property for residential use as an upscale project because of the cost, the lack of parking, and the fact that that area was more commercial than residential.