Domeisen, et al. v. ZHB of O’Hara Twp., 814 A.2d 851 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2003):
Note: Distinguished by West Central Germantown Neighbors v. ZHB of Philadelphia, 827 A.2d 1283
The Commonwealth Court affirmed the grant of a special exception and related variances for the relocation and expansion of a landscaping and retail sales business, but vacated and remanded the variance for a sign. The applicant operated a family-owned landscaping business for 50 years; in 1966 it was granted nonconforming status upon filing a “certificate of occupancy.” In 2000, the applicant applied for an expansion of the nonconforming use; two months later that applicant submitted a new and reduced application. The present use occupies 1.8% of a 12-acre lot; the proposed use will occupy a 2.4% of the lot, a 129% increase in floor area and well beyond the 25% expansion limitation in the zoning ordinance. The Commonwealth Court found that the proposed expansion was a natural expansion that was not excessive, but the minimum necessary to support the business. The Commonwealth Court also found that the applicant had met the standards for variance applicable to a nonconforming use. The Court specifically found that the proposed expansion was the minimum required for the business to remain financially viable. With respect to the sign variance, the Court held that the Zoning Hearing Board had erred because it failed to make any findings or to explain its rational for the grant of the variance, and remanded the case to the Board with the directive to make findings on the issue.
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