East Lampeter Twp. V. County of Lancaster Human Relations Commission and Albert C. Hondaras, 744 A2d 359 (2000)

The Commonwealth Court has taken the clear position that zoning ordinance adoptions are purely "legislative acts" and that courts should not consider the motives of a legislative body adopting such ordinances.
Case Details:

Note: Appeal Denied

Cross Reference: MPC Section 909.1(b)(5), 601

In this case the township enacted a revised zoning ordinance which resulted in the landowner’s property being adversely impacted. The landowner did not file a challenge to the ordinance. Nor did he pursue a curative amendment. Rather, he filed a request to the township to further rezone his tract to a more acceptable district. The township declined to amend the revised zoning ordinance. The landowner then filed a complaint with the county Human Relations Commission, claiming that the township had discriminated against him by refusing his request based on his national origin.

The Commission found in the landowner’s favor and the county appealed to court. Ultimately the court was asked to determine whether the HRC had jurisdiction over the matter as a “discrimination” claim or was the claim really a zoning matter over which the Commission had no jurisdiction.

While the case is replete with jurisdictional and procedural twists and turns the court did enunciate several important principles of zoning law. The court first reflected on the principle that courts will not generally second guess legislative bodies as to the merits of the particular zoning of a property. The court then held that if it could not second guess, certainly the Human Relations Commission had no right to do so. The court also clearly stated that in reviewing legislative enactments such as zoning ordinances, the courts will not consider the “motives” of the legislative body, even if the facts would support a claim of racial discrimination. The court opined that there are other direct actions available to redress discrimination under state and federal law, but overturning a legislative enactment is not an appropriate remedy.

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