Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight (SCRUB) v. Zoning Hearing Board of Adjustment of the City of Philadelphia (Arsenal)
858 A.2d 679 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004)

Case Details:

Even though a property located near I-95 was severely blighted, required extensive efforts to refurbish, and contained deed restrictions, the court reversed a district court’s decision to grant a variance to erect billboards on the property because it was historically significant. The court held that the applicant did not show unnecessary hardship and that granting the variance would have been contrary to public policy. The applicant wanted to be able to erect billboards on the property to help defray the costs of reviving the blighted property. The erection of the billboards would have required eight variances, including a variance from a provision of the ordinance prohibiting billboards in a National Historic District.

The applicant argued that it sought only a dimensional variance. The court disagreed; explaining that scrutiny under a dimensional variance would have been proper if there was only a slight zoning infraction. However, it was improper where there were multiple infractions and a provision prohibited billboards.

The applicant argued that the fact that the property was located in a blighted neighborhood and had deed restrictions created unique hardships. Again, the court disagreed. The court stated that because the revenues from the rent of the signs were to defray the costs of projects that the applicant would otherwise complete, the applicant was not suffering an unnecessary hardship.

The applicant also unsuccessfully claimed that the signs were not contrary to public policy. They noted that the signs would not advertise alcohol, tobacco or adult products, the bases would be screened by trees, the signs would not impede any business activity, and that they would not create traffic hazards. The court disagreed, noting that the placement of the signs violated multiple provisions of the ordinance and that it was evidence that the signs would offend public policy.

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