Becker v. Sewickley Borough Zoning Hearing Board,
874 A.2d 1270 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005)

Case Details:

Landowners sought a height variance for a fence they wished to build around their property. Citing a lack of unnecessary hardship, the zoning hearing board (ZHB) rejected the landowners’ request. Landowners appealed to the court of common pleas. Without seeking the ZHB’s input, the court of common pleas facilitated the negotiation of a settlement agreement between the landowners and the borough council and signed a Consent Order that allowed the landowners to build the fence pursuant to borough-mandated guidelines.

Appealing to the Commonwealth Court, the ZHB believed that the settlement of an appeal from a ZHB decision without the participation of the ZHB “infringes upon [the ZHB’s] exclusive jurisdiction to decide whether or not applicants are entitled to variance relief.” Citing Section 901.1(a) of the MPC, the Commonwealth Court agreed and vacated the trial court’s Consent Order. Remanding the case back to the trial court, the Commonwealth Court ordered the lower court to include the ZHB on any settlement negotiations related to the variance appeal.

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