Hartman v. Zoning Hearing Bd. of Cumru Twp., 133 A.3d 806 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2016)

Group of terminally ill persons living together fit within the ordinance's definition of family.
Case Details:

Applicant intended to build a dwelling to house terminally ill individuals in the Township’s High Density Residential Zoning District.  The permits were issued and Objectors, who were neighbors, appealed, arguing the dwelling was not a single-family dwelling.  The Zoning Ordinance defines “family” as:

[A] group of not more than four (4) persons unrelated by blood, marriage or adoption, living together in a single dwelling and maintaining it as a functional common household. The term “family” shall be deemed to include any domestic employees or gratuitous guests but shall not include any roomer, boarder, lodger or persons residing in a group home.

Evidence showed that the proposed dwelling would “have three bedrooms, one common kitchen, a dining room, a living room, a laundry room, a foyer, an office, and a chapel.”  In addition, “all of the meals will be made in the kitchen and served to the three residents, who will eat together in the dining room, socialize in the living room, and go to the chapel for religious services.” Further, the residents will have access to all areas of the home. Accordingly, on appeal, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial court’s determination that the Zoning Hearing Board was correct in determining that the residents will maintain the home as a functional common household, and that they did, therefore, constitute a “family” under the Zoning Ordinance.

Date of Decision: 2/12/16

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