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.
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.