In re Appeal of Costco Wholesale Corp., 49 A.3d 535 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2012).

Gasoline filling station not permitted as accessory use to retail store where outdoor sales were not permitted in that zoning district.
Case Details:

Applicant received a determination from the Township’s Zoning Officer that its proposal to install gasoline fueling pumps in the parking lot next to its existing store was not permitted as an accessory use.  The Zoning Officer stated that the zoning district where Applicant’s store is located permits indoor retail sales, but not outdoor retail sales, such as gasoline filling stations.  The Zoning Officer also rejected Applicant’s theory that the outdoor sale of gasoline was an accessory use because it was subordinate and customarily incidental to an indoor retail store.  Applicant appealed the determination and sought a variance in the alternative.  This appeal to the Commonwealth Court concerns only Applicant’s appeal of the Zoning Officer’s determination.

The Commonwealth Court reviewed the Township’s Zoning Ordinance and determined that the relevant district permits only indoor retail sales.  Because it was undisputed that a gasoline filing station is an outdoor retail use, it followed that the drafters of the Zoning Ordinance intended to exclude it as a use in the relevant district.  Despite the Commonwealth Court considering a filling station a use that is naturally adjunct to a retail store, and despite the Court admitting it could not discern any policy reason not to allow a gasoline filling station in an ample parking lot, the Commonwealth Court ultimately concluded that the filling station was not a permitted accessory use to a principal retail use where only indoor retail sales were permitted.

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