Pohlig Builders, LLC v. Zoning Hearing Bd., 25 A.3d 1260 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2011).

Variance from steep slope provisions is a hybrid variance (i.e., neither a use nor dimensional variance). Additionally, landowner's pre-purchase knowledge of the steep slope provisions in the ordinance did not make the hardship self-created.
Case Details:

The Zoning Hearing Board granted Applicant’s request for a variance to construct a bridge, culvert and access road on another property in floodplain and steep slope zones in which such improvements were prohibited.  The Board of Supervisors appealed and the trial court affirmed the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision.  The Board of Supervisors appealed on numerous grounds, but the most important two were with respect to Applicant’s “necessary hardship” and whether the suffered hardship was self-created.

The Commonwealth Court affirmed the grant of the variance and determined that a steep slope variance is neither a use nor a dimensional variance.  Rather, it is a hybrid variance with a less stringent “hardship” standard.   In addition, it was not enough to overturn the variance that the Applicant had pre-purchase knowledge of the zoning restrictions.  It would take more, such as a potentially higher purchase price if the variance were granted, in addition to knowledge of the variance, to constitute a self-inflicted hardship.

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