Loughran v. Valley View Developers, Inc., 145 A.3d 815 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2016)
The merger of lots doctrine is only applicable in municipalities that have a merger of lots provision in their land use ordinance.
Applicant sought variances to construct a two-story building on an under-sized lot. At the hearing, Objector argued the variances should not be granted because the relief sought would change the character of the neighborhood. The Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) granted the variances without a written decision. Objector appealed to the trial court which remanded the matter to the ZHB to determine whether the lot was subdivided properly, and whether it was merged with a nearby lot. The trial court also granted Applicant’s Estate (Estate) party status, as the successor in interest to the Applicant. The ZHB held that the lot was not properly subdivided and was merged into a single lot. The Estate appealed to the trial court which affirmed the ZHB’s decision. The Estate then appealed to the Commonwealth Court on the grounds that the trial court and ZHB erred by applying the merger of lots doctrine when the jurisdiction has not adopted the merger of lots doctrine. The Commonwealth Court agreed with the Estate’s argument and reversed and remanded the decision to the trial court. In coming to this decision, the Court held that without a merger of lots provision in a municipality’s zoning ordinance, the merger of lots doctrine is inapplicable.
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