Pennsylvania Bureau of Corrections v. City of Pittsburgh
532 A.2d 12 (Pa. 1987)

Case Details:

The Pennsylvania Bureau of Corrections (applicant) filed a conditional use application to use a property as a pre-release center for state prisoners. The applicant satisfied all of the requirements of the ordinance. The governing board held a public hearing to rule on whether to grant or deny the application. Numerous neighbors objected to the application and testified that they were concerned about the high crime rate in the neighborhood, the number of women and elderly in the area, and a reduction of property values that might be adversely affected by the pre-release center. The governing board denied the application because it determined that the center would pose a substantial threat to the community.

The applicant appealed the governing board’s decision. The appeal reached the Supreme Court, which held that the objectors to an application for conditional use had the burden to present relevant evidence to support the conclusion that the proposed use would pose a substantial threat to the community. The objectors argued that they did not bear the burden because the applicant should have to prove that the project would be a detriment to the community. The Court rejected this view by stating that once the applicant for a conditional use satisfies all of the requirements of the ordinance, to defeat the application, evidence must be produced to show that the proposed use would pose a substantial threat to the community.

The PA Supreme Court affirmed the Commonwealth Court’s reversal of application denial because the objectors did not show by “substantial evidence” that the center would create a substantial risk. The concerns voiced by the residents amounted to mere conjectures and bald assertions, not proof.

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