Coretsky v. Butler Township, 520 Pa 573, 555 A2d 72 (1989)
Rejection of Subdivision or Land Development Plans Must Specify Defects: Failure results in deemed approval.
Cross Reference: MPC Section 508(2) and (3)
MPC Section 508(2) and (3) mandate that a denial of a plan must be accompanied by specified defects with cross reference to the sections of the Ordinance not complied with. The failure to conform to this procedural requirement results in a “deemed approval.”
In an earlier decision the Commonwealth Court had carved out an exception to the above rule. The court held that where the circumstances demonstrated that the applicant “was aware” of the reasons for denial, the failure to include the specific grounds for denial in the decision did not result in a deemed approval. See Appeal of Johnston, 69 Pa Cmwlth 220, 450 A2d 785 (1982)
In this case the court found that MPC 508(2) is specific and unambiguous. The court then cited the Statutory Construction Act, 1 Pa.C.S. Sec. 1501 which holds that “when the words of a statute are clear and free from all ambiguity, the letter of it is not to be disregarded under the pretext of pursuing its spirit.”
The Statutory Construction Act also applies, permitting courts to consider “intent” of the legislation only if a statute is unclear.
Here the Supreme Court found the phrases “shall specify the defects” and “shall be deemed an approval” as unambiguous and therefore rejected the “spirit of the law” exception carved out by the Commonwealth Court in Johnson, supra., and held that a deemed approval had occurred as the result of the Township’s failure to comply with MPC 508(2).
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