Citation:

Lease v. Hamilton Twp.,
885 A.2d 684 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005), app. denied, 586 Pa. 775 (2006).

Summary:
If the written denial of a land development plan does not clearly identify what issues have been addressed and what issues remain, Section 508(2) of the MPC is not satisfied.
Case Details:

Landowner submitted a land development plan to build a residential subdivision.  The township engineer responded with a letter containing forty-five comments.  Landowner responded with a letter that separately addressed each of the township engineer’s concerns.  Several days later, the township engineer sent a second letter to the landowner highlighting sixty-seven concerns.  Landowner did not respond to this second letter.  Several months later, the township supervisors sent landowner a letter rejecting the plan, noting that the plan did not have a sewer design and that no action was taken to address the prior letters from the township engineer.

On appeal to the court of common pleas, the landowner argued that the written decision did not comply with Section 508(2) of the MPC, which states that if a municipal board rejects a landowner’s development plan, the board  “shall specify the defects found in the application and describe the requirements which have not been met and shall, in each case, cite to the provisions of the statute or ordinance.”  The trial court agreed and, following Section 508(3), granted a “deemed approval” of the plan to the landowner.

On appeal, the Commonwealth Court rejected the township’s argument that the denial letter incorporated by reference the engineer’s prior letters, and that such incorporated letters satisfied Section 508(2).  First, the Court held that the denial letter did not explicitly incorporate the prior letters by reference “as that term is commonly used in the law.”  Second, even if the denial letter could be construed to have properly incorporated the prior letters, the denial letter’s general reference to the prior letters did not satisfy Section 508(2) because the engineer’s second letter, containing sixty-seven comments, did not address whether the landowner’s response had remedied any of the engineer’s initial forty-five comments.  As such, Section 508(2) was not satisfied because the engineer’s second letter and the township’s denial letter did not identify the specific deficiencies that still needed to be remedied.

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