Smith v. Ivy Lee Real Estate, LLC, 165 A.3d 93 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2017)

This decision discusses the language and interpretation of Article VI, Section 10617, of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Code (“MPC”) as to whether a private cause of action to enforce a subdivision and land development ordinance (“SALDO”), located in Article V of the MPC, is permitted. The Court concluded the term “act” in the MPC refers to the MPC as a whole, as opposed to specific articles and titles; therefore, the private cause of action was permissible despite the SALDO provisions being located in another article of the MPC.
Case Details:

Appellant sought an injunction against Developer stating Developer was in violation of the Township’s SALDO.  Appellant alleged Developer was engaging in activities that constituted “land development” under the Township’s SALDO on a parcel of land adjacent to the Appellant’s parcel, and that those activities prevented Appellant from using and accessing portions of its property.  Appellant further alleged Developer had not submitted a land development plan as required by the Township’s SALDO and, therefore, sought permanent injunctive relief.  The Township refused to enforce the SALDO.  Appellant moved to bring private enforcement under the MPC, but trial court denied Appellant’s request for injunctive relief.

The trial court determined Appellant did not have standing to enforce the SALDO because section 617 of the MPC was related to zoning violations and the Township did not have a zoning ordinance in place.  Specifically, the language “in violation of any ordinance enacted under this act” within section 617 was in question.  The Commonwealth Court reversed the order on further appeal by Appellant. When examining the usage of this act throughout the MPC, it was clear to the Court that the phrase referred to the MPC as a whole – not purely the zoning article, as Developer suggested.  Under this determination, a private cause of action claiming violation of a SALDO is permissible and the trial court erred its ruling.  Another issue raised by the trial court in support of Developer was the lack of cases applying to section 617 of the MPC to SALDOs. To the contrary, the Court stated a lack of cases does not mean the requested action cannot be done, but rather that this question has not been decided before.

Date of Decision: 6/27/17

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