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

Tag: unnecessary hardship

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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Government Agency’s Preservation Requirement to Redevelop Property It Owned Was Insufficient Hardship for Variance

In this zoning appeal out of Alleghany County, the Commonwealth Court was asked whether preservation requirements imposed by a government agency on property that it owned, may constitute an unnecessary hardship to justify a variance.  In concluding such a hardship is self-imposed and does not warrant a variance, the court focused on the fact that no legal authority required preservation, and that the more appropriate solution was for the City to rezone the site rather than have the applicant seek a variance.

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Temporary Use Variances Require Showing Of Unnecessary Hardship; Cannot Be De Minimis

In this appeal of the grant of a zoning variance out of Lebanon County the Commonwealth Court weighed in on whether an application for a temporary variance must meet the same requirements as a permanent variance, and whether the de minimis doctrine could be used to grant a use variance. The court held that the same requirements apply to a temporary variance as a permanent variance and that the de minimis doctrine does not apply to use variances, only dimensional variances.

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Evidence of Economic Hardship Alone Does Not Make an “Unnecessary Hardship”

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.

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