Messina v. East Penn Twp., 619 Pa. 326 (Pa. 2012).
Discussion of burden of proof for procedural validity challenge filed more than thirty days after ordinance is adopted.
Appellants reside next to Applicant’s quarry, which was a lawful nonconforming use predating the Township’s Zoning Ordinance that was adopted almost twelve years before Appellants filed their challenge. The Zoning Ordinance had been amended three times prior to the challenge. Appellants asserted that the Zoning Ordinance was void ab initio because the Township failed to strictly adhere to procedural requirements for adopting a zoning ordinance as required by the MPC when it made changes to the zoning map on the night the Zoning Ordinance was adopted. Appellants argued that because of the changes, the Township was required to provide additional notice to the public before adopting the ordinances. The trial court could not determine from the record what changes had been made twelve years earlier. Consequently, after Appellants declined the court’s offer to hold an evidentiary hearing, the trial court held Appellants failed to show a substantial change was made just prior to the Zoning Ordinance’s enactment. The Commonwealth Court affirmed.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts’ decisions because Appellants’ claim was time-barred having been submitted twelve years after the Zoning Ordinance was enacted. Moreover, Appellants failed to meet their burden of proof that the township did not substantially comply with statutory procedure. The Court reaffirmed prior decisions that held, “where a challenge is made within 30 days, nothing less than strict compliance with the procedural requirements of 53 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 10610(b) will allow the ordinance to stand. After 30 days, substantial compliance with the procedural requirements will allow the ordinance to stand.”
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