Citation:

Geryville Materials, Inc. v. Lower Milford Twp. Zoning Hearing Bd., 972 A.2d 136 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2009).

Summary:
Ordinances that have been adopted with procedural defects may survive procedural challenge where evidence indicates that the defects are harmless, the public has relied significantly upon the validity of the ordinances for several years and the public benefits from avoiding the chaos of finding the ordinances to be void ab initio.
Case Details:

Geryville challenged ten ordinances alleging procedural defects in the enactment of each in an attempt to rely upon the void ab initio doctrine.  Each ordinance had been on the books for at least three years.  Evidence submitted before the Zoning Hearing Board showed that nearly 3,000 permits had been issued under the ordinances and that many citizens would not have purchased their properties but for the ordinances.  The Zoning Hearing Board denied the challenges and Geryville appealed to the trial court alleging the same issues as well as additional procedural challenges to the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision.

The Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial court’s decision upholding the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision.  Tempering the effects of Glen-Gery Corp. v. Zoning Hearing Bd. of Dover Twp., 907 A.3d 1033 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2006), and Shadler v. Zoning Hearing Bd. of Weisenberg Twp., 850 A.2d 619 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2004), the Commonwealth Court held that reliance or acquiescence could be grounds to uphold an improperly enacted ordinance.  The Commonwealth Court relied on dicta in Glen-Geryand Schadler that such an outcome is proper because voiding a law relied upon by the public to this degree is unfair.  In Geryville, the Commonwealth Court leaned on objective and subjective evidence that residents relied on the ordinance, including that nearly 3,000 permits had been issued and testimony from residents that they would not have purchased their property but for the ordinance.  In addition the Commonwealth Court was concerned with the chaos that would arise if ordinances were overturned at a high rate.

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