Muhlenberg College v. Zoning Hearing Board of the City of Allentown, 760 A2d 443 (2000)

Mandatory Submission of Zoning Ordinance Amendments to Municipal and County Planning Agencies.
Case Details:

Note: Appeal Denied

Cross Reference: MPC Section 609 (c) and (e)

This case highlights the mandatory provisions of MPC 609 (c) and (e) requiring the submission of zoning ordinance amendments to municipal and county planning agencies at least thirty(30) days prior to the public hearing at which the amendment is to be acted upon. The only exception is where an amendment is initiated by the planning agency. The requirement applies equally to any proposed amendment which undergoes any substantial change during the adoption process.

The court recognized that the comments of the planning agencies may in fact be ignored, but those agencies MUST be given the proper opportunity to comment. In this case a proposed amendment was submitted to the city and county planning agencies only thirteen (13) days prior to enactment. The City argued that the amendment was virtually identical to one previously considered and reviewed by the planning agencies, obviating the necessity for a new review. The most substantial difference in the amendments were the effective dates of the proposed amendments.

The court recognized that MPC 609 (d) requires a new public hearing only when a proposed amendment has been substantially changed or revised to include land not previously affected. The argument could therefore be made that since the proposed amendments were so similar, no second hearing was necessary and therefore the submission of the second proposal to the planning agencies was not even necessary. Following this line of reasoning the City argued that since no submission was necessary, the thirteen (13) day advance submission was not fatal.

The court disagreed, citing the provisions of MPC 609(c) requires “each” amendment to be submitted to the planning agencies and therefore the mere similarities of the proposed amendments does not obviate the necessity of complying with the thirty (30) day submission requirements. Municipalities must recognize a clear distinction between a proposed amendment which may or may not have been substantially changed or revised during its consideration by the governing body, and a new amendment, even if substantially the same as a previously proposed and reviewed amendment.

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