City of Hope v. Sadsbury Twp. Zoning Hearing Board,
2005 WL 3662591 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006)
A church purchased a twenty-four acre parcel to establish a worship center. As part of its program, among other things, the church wanted to provide camping facilities and hiking trails. The zoning for the property allowed churches by right, but campgrounds were allowed by conditional use only. Although the property had previously been used as a campground, the prior campground operator abandoned the use when it sold the property to a manufactured home community developer (which never materialized).
Rather than applying for a conditional use permit to operate a campground, the church submitted an application to the zoning hearing board requesting permission to operate the campground as an accessory use to a worship facility. The zoning hearing board rejected the application. The trial court affirmed, finding that camping and hiking facilities are not accessory uses to worship centers.
On appeal, the Commonwealth Court concluded that the campground, in this case, was not a “subordinate” use. Rather, the Court opined, the campground constituted a primary use of the property, not an accessory use. In addition, because the tribunals below had not identified where and to what extent the hiking trails were going to be built on the property, it reversed the lower court’s finding that the hiking trails were not a valid accessory use. The court remanded for further fact finding whether the proposed hiking trails constituted a valid accessory use.
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