Stauffer v. Weisenberg Twp. Bd. of Supervisors, 934 A.2d 783 (Pa. Commw. 2007).

A conditional approval of a subdivision and land development plan is not a rejection for purposes of the deemed approval provisions of the MPC.
Case Details:

Landowner filed a Plan with the Township, seeking approval to subdivide her 17.6 acre parcel into two lots.  The Township engineer concluded that Cemetery Road, a one-lane dirt road, needed to be reconstructed to accommodate the Plan and expressed concerns about the construction of driveways on the lots.  The Planning Commission approved the Plan in February 2006, subject to the comments of the engineer.  In March 2006, the Board approved the Plan subject to certain conditions set forth in a letter to Landowner.  Landowner did not object to following the engineer’s comments and agreed to pay for her “fair share” of paving Cemetery Road, but she objected to the other conditions.  Landowner filed a land use appeal arguing that the Board abused its discretion and failed to comply with the notice requirements of § 508(2) of the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) and, consequently, that her Plan was entitled to a deemed approval under § 508(3) of the MPC.

The trial court rejected the Landowner’s “deemed approval” theory, finding that a conditional approval must be treated as a rejection.  The Landowner’s only remedy in this situation was a land use appeal.  The trial court rejected her objections to the Board’s conditions, except for the sentence stating that the Plan was “subject to a road improvement fee.”

On appeal to the Commonwealth Court, Landowner argued that the Board’s conditions were void due to its failure to specifically identify defects.  Landowner also argued that the conditions were not authorized under the Township’s Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO).  The Court rejected the first issue because the MPC does not require a township to support each condition with a citation to a statute or ordinance and found that the sole remedy was an appeal to determine if the conditions are legal; however, the Court found that the Board’s conditions requiring Landowner to reconstruct Cemetery Road and build driveways on her subdivided lots were not authorized under the SALDO.  Section 903.M(3) provided that there must be “a reasonable relationship between the need for an on-site improvement of a street and the traffic created by a proposed subdivision or land development.”  The Board did not make any findings about an increase in traffic on Cemetery Road in relation to the Plan to justify an on-site improvement.  Section 902.M(4)(a) only requires Landowner to pave the portion of the road that abuts her property.  In addition, the Court held that the Board exceeded its authority under SALDO § 902.M(4)(a) by ordering Landowner to construct driveways on her property.  The Court found that SALDO does not require the construction of a driveway before selling a subdivision.  The decision of the trial court was reversed.

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