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Key Topic: Zoning Validity Challenges

Larock v. Board of Supervisors of Sugarloaf Twp.,
866 A.2d 1208 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005)

Landowners petitioned their board of supervisors (Board) to enact curative zoning that would provide for a "Mineral Recovery District" and allow quarrying on a 235-acre subsection of an area then zoned as an A-1 Conservation District. Board denied the petition and Landowners appealed to the court of common pleas.

Landowners argued that the existing zoning ordinance (Ordinance) created a de facto exclusion of mineral development--although the Ordinance provided for quarrying on its face, as a practical matter, further quarrying activities in the Township were effectively precluded. Landowners' expert testified that although approximately 500 acres of I-1 zoned property allowed quarrying (by special exception), only 85 of the 500 acres could still be used for that purpose, representing only .5% of the Township's total acreage. Agreeing with Landowners that limiting mineral development to .5% of the Township's land did not "provide for the reasonable development of minerals" per Section 603(i) of the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), 53 P.S. § 10603, the court reversed the Board's decision. The Board then appealed to the Commonwealth Court (Court).

Reversing the lower court, the Court held that read as a whole, Section 603 "weighs and balances several different interests in requiring zoning ordinances to reflect the policy goals of the community." In this case, Section 603 required a "balancing of interests to determine whether [by providing] for mining in the I-1 General Industrial District and not in [the] Conservation District [the Ordinance was] reasonable." Concluding that the lower court had not engaged in the appropriate balancing analysis of all the interests enumerated in Section 603, the Court remanded all the way back to the Board to evaluate its Ordinance in relation to all of Section 603's factors and the overall policy objectives of the community as enumerated in the Township's Comprehensive Plan.

 

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