Marshall v. Charlestown Twp. Bd. of Supervisors, 169 A.3d 162 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2017)

Where an ordinance allows for conditional use approval for proposed uses that are “educational” in nature but does not define the term, the definition is broad. However, when determining if a use is “educational,” courts should focus on the primary function of the facility.
Case Details:

Landowners filed a conditional use application to conduct farm-to-table “educational” culinary workshops on their farm. The workshops were to include one during the day for children and one in the evening for adults. The Board of Supervisors (Board) denied the application for the nighttime workshops on the ground it was not “educational” in purpose. Landowners appealed to the trial court which reversed the Board’s decision and permitted the Landowner’s nighttime use with conditions. The Board appealed to the Commonwealth Court.

Under the applicable ordinance, there was no definition of “educational” or “educational use,” however, prior decisions had held that these terms are to be defined broadly. The focus of the inquiry, though, was on the primary function of the facility. Ultimately, the proposed use was not “educational” because the Landowners admitted the nighttime use would bear close resemblance to a farm-to-table restaurant and would permit patrons to bring and consume alcoholic beverages. Regardless of the broad definition of “educational” dialogue with farmers who produced the crops, when considered in light of the other aspects of the proposed use, there was not enough of an educational purpose to meet the definition. The Court, therefore, reversed the trial court’s decision.

Date of Decision: 8/29/17

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