41 Valley Associates v. London Grove Twp. Board of Supervisors,
882 A.2d 5 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005), app. granted, 898 A.2d 1073 (Pa. 2006).
In determining whether property should be deemed an agricultural security area, a governing body should focus on whether the land is appropriate for agricultural uses now and in the future, not whether the existing or proposed use comports with current zoning.
Pursuant to the Agricultural Area Security Law (AASL), a landowner requested the board of supervisors include its 152-acre property in the township’s agricultural security area (ASA). Several months later, the landowner also applied for a conditional use permit that would allow for intensive agricultural activities, including the construction of “two wharves containing a total of 890,000 square feet of impervious area for mushroom substrate preparation.”
After holding a hearing on the landowner’s ASA request, the supervisors denied the ASA application because the proposed use was not consistent with the township’s comprehensive plan, constituted an industrial use instead of an agricultural use, could threaten water sources, and did not protect agricultural lands. The trial court reversed, however, concluding that the supervisors should not have considered the proposed use contained in the conditional use application when rendering its ASA decision. Landowners appealed.
The Commonwealth Court affirmed and held that the board of supervisors erred by focusing on the application’s compatibility with the subjective general goals of the comprehensive plan rather than the plan’s more objective maps of future uses.
In addition, noting that the purpose of the AASL “is to preserve land for a broad class of uses which are agricultural in nature,” the Commonwealth Court concluded that the supervisors erred by focusing on the specific proposed use; rather, for purposes of determining the narrow issue of whether a property should be deemed an ASA, the supervisors should have focused on “whether the land is appropriate for agricultural uses now and in the future,” not whether the specific existing or proposed use comports with current zoning.
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