Citation:

Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania, Inc. v. College Township Council, 911 A.2d 592 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006).

Summary:
A zoning ordinance that limits the expansion of mining activities is not per se invalid for failing to provide for reasonable mineral development if the governing body completed the appropriate balancing analysis under Section 603 of the MPC.
Case Details:

After being denied an application for a mining permit on land adjacent to its existing limestone quarry, Landowner challenged the validity of the Zoning Ordinance arguing that it failed to provide for “the reasonable development of minerals” as required by Section 603 of the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC).  Although the Rural Residential zone in which the Landowner’s existing quarry operated allowed for mining, the adjacent Agricultural District into which the quarry sought to expand did not permit mining.

On appeal, the Commonwealth Court stated that a zoning ordinance is presumptively valid and constitutional unless a challenger can show that it is unreasonable, arbitrary, or not substantially related to the power to regulate heath, safety, and welfare.  A challenger may show that an ordinance is exclusionary on its face or by application.  Since the Zoning Ordinance here was not exclusionary on its face or by application (because Landowner currently operates a quarry), the Landowner had to show that the Zoning Ordinance was unreasonable and had no rational relationship to any legitimate zoning practice.

The Commonwealth Court held that the Zoning Ordinance was reasonable and legitimate.  Under Section 603, the reasonable development of minerals is just one consideration to be balanced among many.  Here, the governing body balanced several considerations including the projected rate of growth and future needs of the municipality, the distances between proposed residential communities and the quarry, expected retail and industrial growth, protection of farmland and environmentally sensitive areas, and proximity of a proposed recreational park to the quarry.  The governing body also considered road safety issues, aesthetics, and quality of life issues.  Blasting at the quarry could threaten surrounding historic towns and structures.  Also, the governing body considered that the area had been mined for over 156 years in showing that the Zoning Ordinance provided for reasonable mineral development.

Landowner also argued that the Zoning Ordinance did not provide for a “fair share” of land available for mineral development.  The Commonwealth Court rejected this argument because Landowner was actually mining and any threats on future extraction are due to depletion not application of the Zoning Ordinance.  Finally, the Commonwealth Court questioned whether the “fair share” analysis even applies to non-residential property uses.

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