Christman v. ZHB of the Twp. of Windsor
854 A.2d 629, (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004).
One of the issues presented in this case was whether or not two members of the ZHB were required to recuse (dismiss) themselves from the proceeding because they owned lands within the same zoning district as the complaining landowner. The court held that members of the ZHB are only required to step down from a proceeding when they would be unable to act impartially. It is generally within the discretion of a board member to decide if he or she is able to be impartial.
In this case, the township added a new zoning district in order to help preserve viable farms. Before the ordinance was enacted, a public hearing was conducted where the complaining landowner offered no comment on the amendment. Later, the landowner complained that the ordinance constituted spot zoning because other landowners similar to them were not included in the new agricultural reserve district. When the landowner brought his complaint to the ZHB, he requested two members of the ZHB to recuse themselves because the members were farmers within the new agricultural district.
The court stated that while impartiality of the board is fundamental to due process, it is left the discretion of the member to determine if he or she is able to continue without bias. To succeed on this claim, the landowner needed to show the members acted with bias, prejudice, capricious disbelief or prejudgment. Because the ZHB’s decision was supported by substantial evidence and the landowners could not point to anything to show a prejudice, the court held that the members were not required to recuse themselves.
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