Circleville Rd. Partners, L.P. v. Twp. of Ferguson, 2019 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 453 (May 15, 2019)
An amendment to a zoning ordinance that (1) does not change the entire nature of the existing zoning district and (2) treats similarly situated tracts of land within a particular district equally is a textual amendment rather than a zoning map change.
Circleville Road Partners, L.P. (Circleville) appealed the trial court’s order denying its challenge to the validity of Ordinance No. 1034 (Amendment). The Amendment amended a portion of the Township Zoning Ordinance (Zoning Ordinance) relating to the Traditional Town Development (TTD), a mixed use zoning district. Between 2010 and 2011, Circleville and Residential Housing Land, LLC (Developer) received approval to develop their abutting properties into separate TTDs. In 2017, the Developer applied to amend the Zoning Ordinance and its TTD Master Plan in order to resume development on a previously approved project. On September 18, 2017, the Township adopted the Amendment.
The Amendment provided four categories of changes: (1) it allowed for dwelling units in a TTD to be used by a family or up to four unrelated persons, (2) it allowed for drive-through facilities, (3) it allowed the board to grant modifications from the design standards applicable to a TTD, and (4) it amended certain design criteria set forth in the Zoning Ordinance. Circleville asserted that the Amendment constituted a zoning map change, rather than a text amendment, that required the Township to follow additional notice requirements. The trial court concluded that the Amendment made textual amendments to the Zoning Ordinance and did not constitute a map change because the changes were not entirely new, were compatible with the current zoning, and did not create a new zoning scheme.
On appeal, the Commonwealth Court analyzed the overall effect and changes that the Amendment imposed on the Zoning Ordinance. The court determined that the Amendment did not single out a discrete area or tract of land within a particular district because the changes proposed did not result in a substantial change to how one tract of land was zoned compared to the surrounding tracts that were similarly zoned. The proposed changes were also consistent with the initial TTD plan and, in general, amendments which add permitted uses to existing zoning ordinances are not comprehensive or substantial enough to constitute a zoning map change. Further, most of the changes imposed by the Amendment related to the size of existing uses, which did not alter the TTD as a mixed use district. The changes imposed by the Amendment applied to any TTD in the mixed use district, including the property owned by Circleville. Therefore, the changes were “not so comprehensive as to result in a substantial change to the Developer’s property as compared to others similarly situated in the mixed use district, because the changes provide standards applicable to all TTDs in the mixed use district.” Because the Amendment did not change the entire nature of the existing zoning district and it treated all similarly situated tracts of land within the TTD equally, the Amendment constituted a text amendment to the Zoning Ordinance and was not a zoning map change.
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