Apgar v. ZHB of Manheim, 661 A2d 445

Enactment of Zoning Ordinances and Amendments are Legislative Acts
Case Details:

Note: Appeal Denied
(1995): Enactment of Zoning Ordinances and Amendments are Legislative Acts; Presumed Valid; Motives of legislative body in adopting ordinances irrelevant to validity.

Cross Reference: MPC Section 916.1

An objection to a zoning ordinance or amendment based on a claim of favoritism (preferential treatment), is not a valid objection. This case involved a complaint that the municipality had amended its zoning ordinance “for the purpose of benefiting the municipal authority” which wished to place a booster water pumping station in a Residential Zone. In the Residential Zone the use was permitted as of right, but subject to set backs which precluded the use of the desired site.

After the Authority’s set back variances were rejected by the Zoning Hearing Board, the Commissioners amended the zoning ordinance making the use a conditional use but also making the set backs less onerous. The Authority obtained the conditional use approval, which the objectors appealed.

The objectors challenged the ordinance amendments under MPC Sec. 916.1(b) claiming that the zoning ordinance changes were “special legislation” and also argued that the decision of the Township in approving the conditional use was “arbitrary and capricious.”

The court rejected the challenge to the ordinance on two bases. First, the long-standing principal that an amendatory zoning ordinance constitutes “special legislation” only if enacted to prevent a lawful use of land under the original zoning ordinance. Hence, the amendment accommodated the use rather than preventing it. The court also made clear that the “state of mind” of the legislative body (the Commissioners) is not relevant in a validity challenge. The court also reiterated the long held principal that courts will not substitute their judgment for that of the legislative body. Since zoning is clearly an exercise of municipal police authority the courts will generally not interfere without a determination that that ordinance is unjustly discriminatory, arbitrary, unreasonable and confiscatory in its application to a specific piece of property.
The Commonwealth Court therefore affirmed the decision of the Court of Common Pleas.

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