Crystal Forest Associates v. Buckingham Twp. Supervisors,
872 A.2d 206 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005)

Case Details:

Owner and operator of existing mobile-home-park sought to expand the park onto adjacent property. The existing park was located on property zoned as a Mobile Home Park District (MHP District). The land on which owner sought to expand was zoned for agriculture (AG-1 District). Within an AG-1 District, mobile-home-parks were allowed, but by conditional permit only. In addition, should an owner acquire a conditional use permit to operate a mobile-home-park within an AG-1 District, the owner had to comply with heightened dimensional restrictions applicable to that use.

Arguing that the heightened dimensional restrictions placed upon mobile-home-parks within the AG-1 District rendered such a use “economically unfeasible” and therefore “unduly restrictive,” the owner challenged the validity of the provisions and sought approval of a curative amendment. The board of supervisors upheld the validity of the ordinance. The court of common pleas disagreed, holding that the ordinance provisions were unconstitutional because they were not “reasonably related to the preservation of agriculture.” The Commonwealth Court, however, reversed the lower court and upheld the validity of the ordinance.

Noting that Section 605 of the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), 53 P.S. § 10605, permits restrictions of a particular use in one zone to be “mutually exclusive” of restrictions placed on the same use in a different zone, the Commonwealth Court concluded that under the MPC, it is error to compare the regulations (or lack therof) applied to a particular use in one district to the regulations placed on the same use in another district. Rather, the majority held, the ordinance was not “unduly restrictive and unreasonable” and the provisions constituted the legitimate exercise of “legislative judgment to impose certain standards and densities to encourage the preservation of large amounts of open space and to discourage development in the AG-1 District which belies that district’s purpose.”

In a strongly worded dissent, Judge Leavitt, citing Stahl, opined that the provisions of the ordinance as to the mobile home park use created an economic infeasibility. She also opined that the provisions of the ordinance constituted “illusory zoning” because the provisions were more burdensome on mobile home parks than other uses permitted in the AG-1 district and the restrictions applicable to the other uses would not preserve agricultural land or open space.

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