Paupack Township, et al. v. Lake Moc-A-Tek, Inc., et al.
863 A.2d 615 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004)

Case Details:

Owner and operator (Owner) of an oval, inward-sloping car racetrack initially violated Township’s Storm Water Management Ordinance (Ordinance) by channeling parking lot runoff through a grated concrete drainage structure and onto adjacent property owner’s swampland. Owner’s subsequent short-term solution, a detention and filtration system in the track infield, was insufficient to remove the silt derived from Owner’s maintenance practice of re-grading and re-leveling the clay-surfaced track after each race. Owner’s efforts to implement a long-term solution were put on hold by DEP’s notice that modification of the existing system could not proceed without a NPDES permit which rarely issues in less than 210 days. Township then obtained a temporary injunction requiring the cessation of all racetrack operations until Owner filed a valid stormwater management plan. Owner appealed to the Commonwealth Court and argued that the Township did not meet three of the six requirements for the issuance of an injunction under Summit Towne Centre, Inc. v. Shoe Show of Rocky Mount, Inc., 573 Pa. 637; specifically, the Township failed to show 1) irreparable harm, 2) greater injury would result by continued operations, and 3) the injunction was “reasonably suited” to the abatement of the violation.

In rejecting all of Owner’s arguments and affirming the trial court’s grant of injunctive relief, the Court reaffirmed a previous decision, Gateway Motels, Inc. v. Monroeville, 525 A.2d 478 (1987), that “a municipality need only prove a violation of its ordinance to establish its entitlement to an injunction” so long as the ordinance provided for an injunctive remedy. In this case, the Ordinance’s remedy language provided that “the Township may initiate and maintain appropriate actions by law or in equity to restrain, correct or abate violations.” This language satisfied the Gateway requirement that an ordinance contain language providing for injunctive relief.

In addition, the Court explicitly rejected Owner’s argument that for the Township to be entitled to an injunction, the Township must demonstrate that the injunction “is necessary to prevent irreparable harm.” Relying on Gateway, the Court noted that “irreparable harm is demonstrated by [the] violation . . . itself.”

The Court disposed of Owner’s last two arguments, that the injunction was inappropriate when “no further injury” would result by continued operations, and the injunction was not “reasonably suited” to abatement, by finding that continued operations would in fact result in further injury (continuing uncontrolled stormwater management), and that enjoining further operations was an appropriate response to preventing such injury, respectively.

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