All State Signz Co. v. Burgettstown Borough, 154 A.3d 416 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2017)
Where parties submit affidavits tending to prove and disprove the existence of a zoning hearing board, there is a dispute concerning issues of material fact.
Applicant sought approval to build certain billboards to advertise their business on three different properties in the Borough. Applicant and counsel presented applications for billboard permits at the Borough Council (Council) meeting. Council did not act on the applications, so Applicant filed a complaint in mandamus to compel the Borough to process the permit application. Summary judgment was granted in favor of the Borough due to a finding there was no dispute surrounding any issues of material fact in that Applicant failed to submit an application to the Borough’s zoning hearing board or a zoning hearing officer. Applicant appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which reversed the trial court’s decision.
The Commonwealth Court found the trial court erred by finding there was no dispute as to issues of material fact. The central dispute was whether the Borough had a zoning hearing board that could accept the billboard applications. The Borough maintained it had a zoning hearing board, but Applicant maintained the Borough indicated to them they had no zoning hearing board or zoning officer. Further, Applicants asserted they were told Council was acting as the zoning hearing board. There was also a dispute concerning whether, even if the Borough could accept the billboard applications, the applications were actually accepted. The Borough asserted no hearing was held on the applications, which meant they were not accepted. Applicant alleged the minutes from the Council meeting indicate the applications were accepted and discussed at the meeting. These disputes were found to be material because they directly related to the issue of whether Applicant had a legal right to relief under Section 908(9) of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, which grants an applicant a deemed approval if a municipality fails to render a decision in a certain period of time.
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