DeSantis v. Zoning Hearing Bd., 53 A.3d 959 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2012)
When reviewing a deemed approval, the trial court must not conduct appellate review; rather, de novo review is required and the trial court must make its own findings.
The City applied for dimensional variances on a lot that would permit it to develop police department substation. The Zoning Hearing Board held a hearing but failed to issue a timely decision; therefore, it issued a deemed approval from which Objectors appealed to the trial court. The trial court remanded for the sole purpose of the Zoning Hearing Board issuing findings of fact and conclusions of law. The Zoning Hearing Board did so and granted the City’s variances finding it was impractical to construct a usable structure on the property due to the requirement of the relevant zoning district. The trial court affirmed the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision without much of a review and without taking evidence.
On further appeal, the Commonwealth Court held that the trial court erred in conducting appellate review, as opposed to de novoreview, of the Zoning Hearing Board’s deemed approval. On appeal to the trial court from the deemed approval of the City’s application, the trial court should have made its own findings of fact and conclusions of law. It was error to remand the matter to the Zoning Hearing Board, and the findings by the Zoning Hearing Board on remand, therefore, were a nullity.
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