In re Appeal of Chestnut Hill Cmty. Ass’n, 155 A.3d 658 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2017)
Variances may be granted where the applicant proves strict compliance with the ordinance would create a hardship due to the unique physical circumstances or conditions of the lot. The hardship cannot be one that arises from the impact of zoning regulations in the district.
Applicant sought a variance from the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) to construct an open-air parking space for one car in the front yard of his lot (Property). L&I denied the request, stating the City’s Zoning Code (Code) prohibited accessory surface parking spaces in front yards. Applicant requested a variance from the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). The ZBA granted the variance and Objectors appealed to the trial court, which affirmed the decision of the ZBA. Objectors then appealed to the Commonwealth Court.
The Commonwealth Court found Applicant failed to prove that strict compliance with the Code would create an unnecessary hardship due to unique physical circumstances or conditions of the Property. Rather, Applicant’s hardship arose from the impact of zoning regulations in the district. Under the Code, surface parking spaces were not permitted, except that surface parking in the rear of a property was permitted if the lot is served by an alley or shared driveway in the rear of the property. The Property had no shared driveway in the rear, nor was there an alley connected to the Property. Accordingly, the Property did not meet the exception in the Code, so Applicant was not permitted to park on the Property. In other words, Applicant had no right to park on the Property in the first place, since parking in the rear was permitted only as an exception to the prohibition. Since the hardship (not being allowed to park on the Property) was created by the Code, not unique physical circumstances or conditions of the Property, the variance was granted in error.
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