Shaner v. Schuylkill County Zoning Hearing Board
859 A.2d 859 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004)
When a non-conforming business use of property changes, the subsequent use must be sufficiently similar to the prior non-conforming use to avoid reclassification as a new or different use. If the uses are similar, the “doctrine of normal expansion” is used. The “doctrine of normal expansion” allows a landowner to expand the business use. However, if a subsequent use is not considered within the normal expansion of the property owners business, the use will be reclassified as a new or different use and may be prohibited by zoning restriction.
The neighbors of the applicant complained to the Zoning Hearing Board that the use of a building as a warehouse for animal hides in an area zoned R-3 violated the zoning ordinance. Prior to the warehouse use, the building was used as a knitting factory and was permitted to operate as a non-conforming use. Subsequently, the building was sold to the plaintiffs who began using the building to store and treat animal hides prior to the tanning process. The residents complained of a “wicked” odor coming from the warehouse. The zoning officer visited the building and stated that he did not see any activity going on that resembled a knitting factory, the prior use.
The plaintiffs argued that both knitting and leather were in the garment industry and were thus sufficiently similar. The court disagreed noting that the test is based on whether the uses, not the industries, are similar and emphasized that the plaintiffs’ process involved more then storage where the plaintiffs collected, salted, dried, and preserved raw material prior to shipping and was distinct from the prior “knitting mill process.”
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