Laurento v. ZHB of West Chester et al., 162 Pa Comwlth 226, 638 A2d 437 (1994)

VARIANCES: Economic considerations alone insufficient to prove hardship.
Case Details:

Cross Reference: MPC Section 912.

Where a variance is sought the provisions of MPC Section 912 are mandatory. One of these is the requirement that an applicant establish that an “unnecessary hardship” stemming from unique physical circumstances or conditions of the property will result if the variance is denied.

In this case the Applicant argued that his “nonconforming” warehouse was functionally obsolete and that variances were necessary to justify the cost of demolition and replacement with residential units. The ordinance would have permitted only five or six residential units. Applicant argued that unless twelve units were to be approved serious economic loss would occur.

The Commonwealth Court noted that it had previously found in Serban v. ZHB of Bethlehem that a condition which renders a property “almost valueless” does establish a hardship. Here the Court found that the Applicant would “suffer diminished profits” because of the limitations of the zoning ordinance, but that such a loss is insufficient to support a variance. The degree of economic hardship which must be proven to support a variance is apparently to be decided on a case by case basis, but must be more than a mere economic detriment.

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