Sombers v. Stroud Township Zoning Hearing Bd., 913 A.2d 306 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006).
A variance may be granted if landowners would be denied the reasonable use of their property absent a variance.
Landowners sought a variance to build a residence on a 2.125-acre tract of land with a pond located near its center. The Zoning Ordinance required a minimum buffer of 100 feet from a pond which, in this case, effectively precluded Landowner from building a residence without a variance. Landowners originally required a variance to build a 770-square-foot residence, but then amended their application to allow for a 1,392-square-foot residence. The Zoning Hearing Board denied their application for a variance, but the trial court concluded that a variance should be allowed. Objectors appealed.
Under the Municipalities Planning Code, a variance may be granted when the following are shown: (1) unique physical characteristics of the property, rather than the operation of the zoning ordinance create an unnecessary hardship; (2) because of the unique physical characteristics of the property, the property cannot be developed in conformity with the provisions of the zoning ordinance; (3) the applicant has not created the hardship; (4) the variance, if authorized, will not alter the character of the neighborhood; (5) that the variance, if approved, will represent the minimum variance. (53 PS § 10910.2).
Interpreting the case as a dimensional rather than a use variance case, the Commonwealth Court determined that confining the use of the residentially zoned property to a pond alone would not permit the reasonable use of the property since the drafters of the ordinance intended land to be used for single-family dwellings. The Township argued it should be considered a use variance because buffers typically are used to separate uses; however, the Court found that the buffer restriction, in this case did not serve that purpose, as the primary purpose for this district was for single-family residences.
In addition, the Commonwealth Court concluded that the unique characteristics of the property precluded development, not the Landowners’ knowledge of the non-conformity.
Finally, following the minimum deviation rule, the Court granted the Landowners’ first proposal for a 770-square-foot residence, instead of the 1,392 square foot proposal.
No liability is assumed with respect to the use of information contained in this website. Laws may be amended or court rulings made that could affect a particular procedure, issue, or interpretation. The Department of Community & Economic Development assumes no responsibility for errors and omissions nor any liability for damages resulting from the use of information contained herin. Please contact your local solicitor for legal advice.