Slice of Life, LLC v. Hamilton Twp. Zoning Hearing Bd., 2019 Pa. LEXIS 2363 (Apr. 26, 2019)
Purely transient property uses are prohibited in districts where a zoning ordinance limits the use of a single-family home by a single housekeeping unit.
Appellant, the owner of Slice of Life, LLC, and a resident of Brooklyn, NY, owned a six-bedroom property that was used exclusively for short-term rentals. The property was rented 25 times over the course of one year with a rental period ranging from two days to one week. The property was in Zoning District A, which permitted single-family uses including detached dwellings, accessory uses, and essential services. The term dwelling “shall not to be construed to included hotels, motels, rooming houses, or other tourist home.” The term “family” was defined as “one or more persons occupying a dwelling unit, related by blood, marriage, or adoption, living together as a single housekeeping unit and using certain facilities and rooms in common.” Appellant was notified that the short-term rental constituted a hotel/transient rental facility, which was prohibited in Zoning District A. Appellant appealed to the Township Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) and then to the Trial Court. Both the ZHB and the Trial Court concluded that Appellant’s short-term rental use was prohibited in Zoning District A. Appellant then appealed to the Commonwealth Court which stated that Appellant’s use was permitted in Zoning District A because the Zoning Ordinance did not explicitly exclude the use.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed whether the exclusive use of the property as a short-term rental unit was permitted by the Zoning Ordinance in Zoning District A as a single-family residential use. “Single housekeeping unit” was undefined in the Zoning Ordinance but, per the Court, it has been widely understood as “requiring the person or persons residing in the home to function as a family and to be ‘sufficiently stable and permanent’ and not ‘purely transient.’” Therefore, by defining family as requiring a single housekeeping unit, the Zoning Ordinance excluded purely transient uses of property in Zoning District A. Appellant’s use was purely transient and prohibited in Zoning District A because the persons residing at the property were never sufficiently stable and permanent. At most, a group of related or unrelated individuals would stay at the property for one week, which is inconsistent with the long-recognized goals of a residential zoning district. Appellant also argued that the use was permitted because it was not expressly prohibited under the Zoning Ordinance. The Court concluded that the opposite was true, and that any use not expressly permitted in a Zoning Ordinance is prohibited by implication. Because Appellant’s use was purely transient, and because any use not expressly permitted is excluded by implication, Appellant’s short-term rental use was prohibited in Zoning District A.
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