Pennsy Supply, Inc. v. Zoning Hearing Bd., 987 A.2d 1243 (Pa. Commw. 2009)

Zoning Hearing Board satisfied the MPC requirements for a written decision when denying an application.
Case Details:

Applicant owned a 246-acre parcel located in two zoning districts – light industrial and heavy industrial.  Applicant believed its quarry would run out of resources in a few years and requested a special exception, among other forms of relief, to expand the quarry.  Objectors testified and, after numerous hearings, the Zoning Hearing Board denied the request.  The Zoning Hearing Board issued a written decision with 32 findings of fact, six conclusions of law, discussions of each request, and details of the experts’ testimony from both sides.  Applicant appealed the decision to the trial court, which upheld the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision.  The appeal alleged that the Zoning Hearing Board erred by concluding that objectors had met their burden to demonstrate that the special exception would harm the public.

On appeal, the Commonwealth Court determined that the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision incorporated sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law that “clearly reflect[ed] that [the Zoning Hearing Board] heard and considered all of the evidence presented, and found that, while both parties met their burden, the objectors’ testimony was more compelling.”  In addition, the Court determined that the Zoning Hearing Board did not err in finding that objectors met their burden of proof that granting the special exception would have adversely effected the health, safety and welfare of the municipality’s residents because the Zoning Hearing Board determined objector’s witnesses were more credible.  Of note, objectors’ witnesses were lay people while Applicant’s witnesses were experts.  Moreover, the Commonwealth Court upheld the decision even though it concluded that the Zoning Hearing Board had improperly shifted the burden of proof during the hearings.

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