In re AMA/Am. Mktg. Ass’n, 142 A.3d 923 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2016)

Where an ordinance requires a conceptual conditional use plan that indicates recorded easements, actions that meet such a requirement include, but are not limited to: (1) submitting a declaration that describes the easement and its placement; (2) submitting a copy of a subdivision plan that indicates the presence of an easement; or (3) submitting a document showing where the easement will be in relation to the proposed use. Title concerns or private property right issues are not zoning or land development matters and, therefore, must be heard by the courts.
Case Details:

Applicant filed a conditional use application and land development plan with the Borough to build a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). Under the Borough’s zoning ordinance, TODs were permitted by conditional use. Years before this application, Objector granted easements for four parcels of land that were created from a subdivision from Objector’s original parcel. During the hearing on Applicant’s conditional use application, Objector argued that if the development was approved it would obstruct Objector’s ability to use one of the easements it had created. Further, Objector asserted the plan at issue did not show the existence of the easement. The Borough’s Solicitor advised counsel for Applicant and Objector, as well as the Borough, that the easement issue involved a private property right, which is not to be considered in a land use application.

The conditional use application was granted by the Borough and the trial court affirmed the Borough’s decision, finding the Applicant provided the Borough with adequate details concerning the existence of the easement at the hearing. Objector appealed to the Commonwealth Court. On appeal, the Court affirmed the trial court’s decision. Under the ordinance, the application must include a conceptual conditional use plan that indicates recorded easements. The Court found Applicant had satisfied this requirement by (1) submitting a declaration which indicated the existence and positioning of the easement; (2) submitting a copy of the subdivision plan for Objector’s land, which included a hand-drawn easement; and (3) submitting a document created by the Applicant’s engineer that showed a superimposed image of the easement on Applicant’s proposed development. Further, the Court indicated Objector’s main complaint concerned the protection of its easement rights, a matter which is not a zoning or land development concern, but a title concern that was not to be decided by the Borough.

Date of Decision: 6/14/16

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