Citation:

Seipstown Village, LLC v. Weisenberg Twp. Zoning Hearing Board,
882 A.2d 32 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005).

Summary:
A zoning hearing board did not err by taking additional testimony and by rescinding a prior oral decision where the oral decision was made before hearing public comment.
Case Details:

A Developer submitted a preliminary land development plan requesting permission to build twelve separate apartment buildings with fourteen to eighteen units per building.  The zoning officer initially determined that the plan did not comply with the township’s Zoning Ordinance because the Zoning Ordinance required development plans to “show a separate lot for each dwelling” and the plan did not provide for separate lots for each apartment building.  Developer appealed the zoning officer’s decision to the zoning hearing board (Board).

At the initial hearing, after hearing from Developer’s engineer, the Board voted unanimously that the separate lot requirement was ambiguous and did not apply to Developer’s plan.  The Board took its vote without hearing from the township residents who were there to oppose the plan.  After certain residents objected, the Board agreed to hear some of the residents’ comments; it also agreed to continue the hearing at a later date to hear additional comments.  At the continued hearing, Developer argued that the Board’s prior oral vote constituted a final decision and that the Board could not take further testimony.  The Board overruled the objection and, after taking additional testimony and arguments from counsel, voted to rescind its previous oral decision.  The Board then issued a written decision denying the Developer’s application.  Developer appealed to the court of common pleas, which affirmed the Board’s decision.

On appeal, the Commonwealth Court affirmed and concluded that the Board’s oral decision was not a final adjudication within the meaning of Section 107(b) of the MPC (53 P.S. Section 10107(b)).  Thus, the Board did not err by taking additional testimony and by rescinding its oral decision.  In fact, the Court concluded, Section 908(5) of the MPC requires zoning hearing boards to afford all objectors an opportunity to be heard.  In addition, a zoning hearing board’s decision is not final until it renders its decision in writing.

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