Schadt v. City of Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Bd., 119 A.3d 439 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2015).
The standards for a variance do not permit a single-family home to be converted into a professional office in a district in which such offices are not permitted where applicant has lived in the house for 40 years and cannot, therefore, show that the house cannot be used in conformity with the zoning ordinance.
Applicant requested a use variance to permit professional offices in one of three detached buildings on the property located in the High Density Residential District. Two of the buildings contained preexisting nonconforming book shops while the third building was a vacant single-family house. The neighborhood was a mix of residential and commercial uses. Applicant argued a hardship on the grounds that her property was atypical because it contained both commercial and residential uses with a very small yard.
The Zoning Hearing Board, trial court, and Commonwealth Court all agreed that the variance should be denied because the Applicant and her family had lived in the single-family house for forty years and that it had been used for that purpose for over a century. Moreover, Applicant even received an offer to buy the house as a residence, and it was only withdrawn due to financing.
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