Bd. of Comm’rs of Cheltenham Twp. v. Hansen-Lloyd, L.P., 166 A.3d 496 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2017)

While a land development application is pending, applicants must receive relief in accordance with the ordinance in effect at the time the application was filed.
Case Details:

Developer filed a land development plan application to develop, among other things, age-restricted housing when the Township’s 2008 Ordinance was in effect. The 2008 Ordinance was enacted to create an Age Restricted Overlay District and permitted age-restricted housing and club house uses by special exception. In 2010, the Township repealed the 2008 Ordinance and did not enact a new ordinance until 2012. Therefore, the Township did not have an age-restricted overlay district for two years. The 2012 Ordinance had stricter dimensional criteria than the 2008 Ordinance. In 2015, Developer requested a special exception to construct the age-restricted development and a clubhouse. The Township argued the 2012 Ordinance was applicable because Developer applied for the special exception in 2015, and that Developer’s plans did not meet the dimensional criteria of the 2012 Ordinance. Developer argued the 2008 Ordinance applied because he submitted the land development plan application in 2008 when the prior ordinance was still in effect.

The Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) concluded the 2008 Ordinance governed because the Developer began the process in 2008. Since Developer filed the land development application first, the ordinance in effect at that time must control according to Section 508(4)(i) of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC). That section states, in part:

From the time an application for approval of a plot . . . is duly filed . . . and while such application is pending approval or disapproval, no change or amendment of the zoning, subdivision, or other governing ordinance or plan shall affect the decision on such application adversely to the applicant and the applicant shall be entitled to a decision in accordance with the provisions of the governing ordinances or plans as they stood at the time the application was duly filed.

The Township appealed. On appeal, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the ZHB’s decision because the MPC’s language clearly and unambiguously states that, while a land development application is pending, the applicant must receive relief in accordance with the ordinance in effect at the time of filing.

Date of Decision: 7/6/17

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