Baker v. Chartiers Township, 163 Pa Comwlth.574, 641 A2d 688 (1994)

Baker v. Chartiers Township Zoning Hearing Board; 677 A2d 1274 (1996)

SPOT ZONING: Determined by totality of circumstances. Size of rezoned tract and inconsistency with comprehensive plan as criteria for claim of spot zoning.
Case Details:

Note: Appeal Denied

Cross Reference: MPC Section 909.1(b), also 609.1(a), 1002-A

Under MPC Section 909.1(b) the legislative body has exclusive jurisdiction to consider requests for rezoning. The governing body acts in its “legislative” role and such decisions are not subject to direct judicial review. The proper form of appeal is a validity challenge to the zoning hearing board. Once a decision is rendered by the zoning hearing board, an appeal can be filed within the Court of Common Pleas.

The curative amendment procedure prescribed under MPC 609.1(a) requires the governing body to act as a quasi-judicial body considering the legal merits of the challenge to the validity of the ordinance and accompanying curative amendment. Appeals from decisions under MPC 609.1 also go to the zoning hearing board under MPC 909.1 and 1002-A.

In this case Appellant improperly appealed a rezoning to the Court of Common Pleas. The Court of Common Pleas rejected jurisdiction. On appeal, the Commonwealth Court upheld the lower court dismissing the appeal. The court also refused to remand the appeal to the zoning hearing board. Because of the passage of time, the Appellant then had no further appeal rights.


Note: Distinguished by Lower Southampton Twp. v. Dixon, 756 A.2d 147

Claims of “spot” zoning are raised most often when a “small” tract of land is zoned differently from surrounding land. While the size of the parcel in question is relevant it is not dispositive of the issue. In this case the Commonwealth Court found that a 221 acre tract rezoned from agricultural to industrial constituted spot zoning.

The Court noted that the Board did not submit the rezoning amendment to the County Planning Commission as is required under MPC 303(b). While acknowledging that such a failure invalidated the rezoning per se, the Court held that such an irregularity in procedure could be considered along with other factors in determining whether the rezoning was arbitrary and unjustifiably discriminatory.

The Court also noted that while not required, the absence of any expert witness to discuss the environmental concerns evident in this case supports the “arbitrary” argument raised by the objectors. Inconsistency with the comprehensive plan was also a factor in the Courts decision to overturn the rezoning (despite the provisions of MPC 303(c)) which does not require (emphasis added) rejection for failure to be consistent with the comprehensive plan.

In toto, the Court found the procedure used by the Township in adopting the rezoning; the speed; the lack of expert testimony; the failure to comply with required Planning Commission review requirements of the MPC; and the “peninsula” effect caused by the rezoning, to conclusively support the argument that spot zoning had occurred.

The Court used the earlier decision in Township of Plymouth v. County of Montgomery, 109 Pa. Comwlth 200, 531 A2d 49 (1987) and others to generally define spot zoning as “zoning provisions adopted to control the use of a specified area of land without regard to the relationship of those land use controls to the overall plan and the general welfare of the community.”

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