Collier Stone Company v. Township of Collier Board of Commissioners, 735 A 2d. 768, Pa. Cmwlth. (1999).
Under the Municipalities Planning Code only a "landowner" (one having a legal or beneficial interest in the property as defined by MPC Section 107) has "standing" to apply for relief in zoning matters.
Cross Reference MPC Section 107.
In this case the Appellant operated a stone quarrying business and sought a conditional use approval to move that use to a new property. The Appellant, at the time of the Conditional Use Hearing had obtained consent to pursue the approval only from one of several owners of the subject tract. The Board of Commissioners found that the Appellant was not a “”landowner” under the MPC and denied the Conditional Use Application on Appellants lack of “standing” to request the approval.
MPC Section 107 defines a landowner as: The legal or beneficial owner or owners of land including the holder of an option or contract to purchase, a lessee if he is authorized under the lease to exercise the rights of the landowner, or other person having a proprietary interest in land”. Appellant failed to convince the Board or the Court that the mere consent of one of many landowners gave him sufficient equitable interest in the land so as to have standing to apply for the Conditional Use Permit.
Appellant then argued that, even if he did not meet the “landowner” test at the Conditional Use Hearing, he had acquired sufficient interest at the time of the appeal to the court, and thus a dismissal of his appeal for lack of “standing” deprived him of “due process”. The Court disagreed, finding that MPC 1005-A provides sufficient protection of due process rights on appeal. MPC 1005-A mandates that the Court must receive additional evidence in a zoning case where the moving party demonstrates that the record was incomplete as the result of the moving party’s having been denied the opportunity to be fully heard. Because the Appellant had not requested the right to produce additional evidence of his ownership interests he was estopped from raising the “due process” argument.
Finally, the Court held that a municipal governing body, when conducting a Conditional Use Hearing has the right to raise such matters as “standing” on its own, and need not wait for the issue to be raised by other parties. The Court distinguished between the role of the Board in conducting the hearing and the substantive role of the Board in seeing that its Zoning Ordinance was not violated.
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