Phillips v. ZHB of Montour Township, Pa. Commw. (June 21, 2001)

Cite: 766 A.2d 341

Case Details:

Under the township ordinance, an adult bookstore or cabaret can not be established closer than 1,000 feet from an existing adult bookstore or cabaret. The proposed cabaret was greater than 1,000 feet from an existing cabaret if measured between the buildings but less than 1,000 feet if measured between the lot lines. How the distance was to be measured was not defined in the ordinance.

The Commonwealth Court reversed the ZHB’s decision which had been affirmed by the trial court that the measurement is to be taken from the corner property lines. The Court followed the principle that where doubt exists as to the intended meaning of the language written and enacted by the governing body, the language shall be interpreted in favor of the land owner and against an implied extension of the restriction. The Commonwealth Court reasoned that the ZHB and lower court’s interpretation improperly narrowed the terms of the ordinance and unduly restricted the use of the property.

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