Harrisburg Gardens, Inc. v. Susquehanna Twp. Zoning Hearing Bd., 981 A.2d 405 (Pa. Commw. 2009).
Addition of topsoil manufacturing and rock crushing at nonconforming nursery was not permitted as a natural expansion of the nonconforming use.
Harrisburg Gardens purchased a seven-acre property located in a residential neighborhood. The property had been a nursery that primarily sold plants, trees, and shrubs. Harrisburg Gardens erected new buildings, increased the number of employees, and began manufacturing topsoil and crushing rock on the property. The Township issued an enforcement notice and Harrisburg Gardens removed the soil and rock processor. The Zoning Officer subsequently withdrew the notice and neighbors appealed his decision to the Zoning Hearing Board. The Zoning Hearing Board determined that the current use was neither a valid nonconforming use nor an expansion of a prior, similar nonconforming use. The changes, they determined, constituted a new use that was detrimental to the neighbors. On appeal, the trial court upheld the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision.
Harrisburg Gardens appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which upheld the trial court’s decision. The Commonwealth Court determined that the current use was a new use rather than a continuation or natural expansion of the existing nonconforming use. It was not a mere expansion of the prior nursery that sold trees and shrubs; rather, it was a new use focused on topsoil and crushed stone sales. Accordingly, the use was not permitted and the violation notice remained warranted.
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