Realen Valley Forge Greenes Associates v. Upper Merion Township Zoning Hearing Board, (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2008).

Appellants were denied the right to intervene because they no longer had any interest in the property.
Case Details:

Hankin owned a 135-acre parcel of property.  In 1996, Hankin entered into a conditional agreement of sale with Realen contingent on Realen receiving zoning approval to allow for commercial development. Realen filed a validity challenge to the agricultural zoning of the property, claiming that it was illegal spot zoning.  The challenge made it to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which held that that the zoning constituted unlawful spot zoning and remanded the case to the trial court.   Hankin did not intervene in this matter at any time and conveyed title to Realen in 2004.

Realen alone pursued a settlement as to what it would definitively be allowed to build on the property.  Realen also brought a declaratory judgment action against Hankin alleging that it would not have to pay any increase in purchase price based on the anticipated zoning approvals.   Realen and the Township later set forth a settlement agreement providing for comprehensive means for development.  The settlement agreement was contingent on the dismissal of any actions in which Hankin was a plaintiff.

Hankin filed a petition to intervene arguing that its ability to obtain any additional compensation would be adversely affected if the settlement was approved.  Hankin argued that it was entitled to intervene because it could have joined as a party when the initial zoning appeal was filed.  The trial court denied Hankin’s petition and found that when Hankin conveyed all interest to Realen, it no longer had standing and also that Hankin failed to identify any legally enforceable interest which could be affected by a decision on approval of the settlement agreement.

Hankin appealed to the Commonwealth Court arguing that they did not have to have standing when intervention was sought, but were only required to have been able to join as an original party in the action.  The Court found that party must have a real property interest at the time that intervention is sought.  Hankin also argued that it had a legally enforceable interest because the proposed settlement agreement compromised its right to additional compensation from Realen.  The Court found that because Hankin did not have any rights on what was going to be developed, it did not have a legally enforceable interest that would justify intervention.  The Court also added that even if Hankin had a legally enforceable interest, intervention should be denied because Realen unduly delayed making an application for intervention by waiting nine years after the initial appeal was filed.

Date of Decision: 1/8/08

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