Atticks v. Lancaster Township Zoning Hearing Board, 915 A.2d 713 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2007).
A person who is not a party to an action may appeal a zoning board decision if they have a legally enforceable interest that is not adequately represented.
Landowners applied for a special exception to operate a beauty salon in their home. Neighbors expressed their concern in front of the Board over parking, safety of children, and increase in traffic. The Zoning Hearing Board denied the application for special exception finding that the proposed salon was not a minor home occupation, failed to comply with criteria for a major home occupation, and provided no credible testimony pertaining to impact on sewage capacity.
The trial court denied Neighbors’ Petition for Leave to Intervene finding that it was not the proper forum for them to assert their interests. The trial court reversed the Board and granted the special exception. Neighbors appealed from the trial court’s decision to deny their Petition. In response, the Landowners claimed that Neighbors’ appeal should be dismissed as moot because the trial court already had ruled on the merits.
On appeal, Commonwealth Court refused to dismiss the action as moot. Neighbors argued that they should have party status in the trial court under Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure No. 2321(4), which provides that a person shall be permitted to intervene if “the determination of such action may affect any legally enforceable interest of such person,” and the Court agreed.
Next, Commonwealth Court examined whether Neighbors’ interests were adequately represented before the trial court. Commonwealth Court determined that the Neighbors’ interests were not adequately represented because the Zoning Hearing Board would have no standing to appeal the trial court and, therefore, there was no party with standing to appeal if the Neighbors were not allowed to intervene. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court’s denial of Neighbors’ petition because they had legally enforceable interests that were not adequately represented.
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