Kee v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, 722 A.2d 1123 (1998)

Case Details:

The Commonwealth Court has determined that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is subject to a township’s zoning and subdivision ordinances. In 1996 the Turnpike Commission expanded a rest stop/travel plaza without obtaining township zoning and land development approvals. The rest stop was initially constructed in the 1950s and has been a lawful non-conforming use since the township’s adoption of zoning ordinances in 1968 as amended in 1985 and 1993. Despite not having the township’s approval to expand the facility, the Commission began construction and nearby residents sought a court order to stop construction.

The court ruled that the expansion is subject to the township’s zoning ordinance. Both the Turnpike Commission and the township were statutorily created by the legislature from whom they received their powers. The task of the court in resolving the conflict when a Commonwealth agency seeks to utilize property that conflicts with the municipality’s zoning regulations is to determine through an examination of the enabling statutes, which of the entities the legislature intended to have pre-eminent power.

The Court decided that the Commission’s enabling legislation does not expressly confer upon it the power to disregard local land use regulation, regardless of the consequences, and that the legislature did not intend for the Commission’s authority to be pre-eminent over that of the township.

This issue has arisen in similar cases involving other Commonwealth agencies. Local zoning authority has been upheld over the Department of Public Welfare which proposed to construct a facility for medically handicapped persons in a residential area in the City of Philadelphia. In that case the court determined that enforcing the municipality’s land use plan would not frustrate the agency’s statutory mental health program because the program was not site sensitive and other nearby locations were available.

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