Balady Farms, LLC v. Paradise Twp. Zoning Hearing Bd., 148 A.3d 496 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2016)

Zoning hearing boards have no authority to amend zoning ordinances, so they must apply the terms of the ordinance as written.
Case Details:

Landowner raised chickens that were processed off-site for public sale and consumption. Due to rising costs, Landowner sought approval to process their chickens on the property. The Township’s Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) concluded the zoning ordinance (Ordinance) did not permit the proposed use in the relevant zoning district. Landowner appealed to the trial court, which denied the appeal and affirmed the ZHB’s decision. Landowner then appealed to the Commonwealth Court.

The Commonwealth Court reversed because Landowner’s proposed use met the Ordinance’s definition of “agriculture,” which was a use permitted in the relevant zoning district.  The Ordinance did not expressly prohibit Landowner’s proposed use. “Agriculture” was defined as “[a]n enterprise that is actively engaged in the commercial production and preparation for market or use of . . . livestock and livestock products.”  In addition, the Ordinance defined “livestock” as specifically including “poultry.” While, the Ordinance did not define the terms “commercial,” “production,” or “preparation,” the Ordinance stated undefined terms were to be used in their ordinary context. Accordingly, the Court looked to the dictionary definition of each term and held Landowner’s proposed use fell within the definition of “agriculture.” The Court further noted that zoning hearing boards have no authority to amend zoning ordinances, so they must only apply the terms of the ordinance as written.

Date of Decision: 10/4/16

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