200 W. Montgomery Ave. Ardmore, LLC v. Zoning Hearing Bd., 985 A.2d 996 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2009).
New activities or improvements that are qualitatively different than an existing nonconforming use in terms of size, processes, etc. are not permitted under the natural expansion doctrine.
Applicant requested a special exception to expand a nonconforming gas station that already had six pump islands, four vehicle repair bays, and approximately 175 sq. ft. of retail space to include a car wash and nearly 1,700 sq. ft. of new retail space. The Zoning Hearing Board denied the application, in part, because it determined the new uses were, in fact, new, and not mere expansions of the existing nonconforming use. The trial court agreed and the Applicant appealed to the Commonwealth Court.
The Commonwealth Court agreed with the Zoning Hearing Board that the car wash and enlarged convenience store were new uses and not necessary to provide for the “natural expansion” of the nonconforming gas station. They were new uses because they were qualitatively different than the gas station in terms of size, processes, vehicle queuing, noise, etc. Moreover, Applicant failed to show they were necessary and a natural expansion of the then existing nonconforming gas station use.
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