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Zoning Hearing Board
Board decisions.
A special exception or variance authorized by a decision of the Zoning Hearing Board shall expire if the applicant fails to obtain a building or use and occupancy permit pursuant thereto within one year from the date of granting of the special exception or variance.
A. Time limits on Zoning Hearing Board decisions.
(1) If the subject of the use ultimately constitutes either a subdivision or land development, the special exception or variance shall expire if the applicant fails to file the required subdivision or land development plan within one year of the granting of the special exception or variance; provided that, however:
(a) The applicant shall have one year after the final record plan of the subdivision or land development is approved to obtain a building/use permit.
Variances.
A. Requirements and standards.
No variance in the strict application of the provisions of this chapter shall be granted by the Zoning Hearing Board unless the Zoning Hearing Board finds that the requirements and standards are satisfied.
(1) The applicant must prove that the variance will not be contrary to the public interest and that practical difficulty and unnecessary hardship will result if it is not granted. In particular, the applicant shall establish and substantiate that the request for the variance is in conformance with all the requirements and standards listed below:
(a) That there are unique physical circumstances or conditions, including irregularity, narrowness or shallowness of lot size or shape, or exceptional topographical or other physical conditions peculiar to the particular property, and that the unnecessary hardship is due to such conditions and not the circumstances or conditions generally created by the provisions of this chapter in the neighborhood or district in which the property is located.
(b) That, because of such physical circumstances or conditions, there is no possibility that the property can be developed in strict conformity with the provisions of this chapter and that the authorization of a variance is, therefore, necessary to enable the reasonable use of the property.
(c) That such unnecessary hardship has not been created by the applicant or that the applicant at the time that he purchased the property was not aware or could not reasonably have been expected to be aware of the zoning classification and restrictions placed on the property or the circumstances giving rise to the hardship.
(d) That the variance, if authorized, will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood or district in which the property is located, nor substantially or permanently impair the appropriate use or development of adjacent property, nor be detrimental to the public welfare.
(e) That the variance, if authorized, will represent the minimum variance that will afford relief and will represent the least modification possible of the regulation in issue.
(2) In granting any variance, the Zoning Hearing Board may attach reasonable conditions and safeguards as may be necessary to implement the purposes of this chapter.
Special exceptions.
(1) The Zoning Hearing Board shall refuse an application for special exception where opponents to the application establish by a preponderance of evidence that the application is contrary to the health, safety and morals or general welfare of the community at large.
Transportation impact study. 
A transportation impact study shall be submitted with an application for a special exception when the proposed use meets the applicability criteria set forth in § 500-3205C of this chapter.
(1) The transportation impact study shall be conducted and prepared in accordance with the requirements of § 500-3205C of this chapter.
(2) The Zoning Hearing Board shall review the impact study to analyze its adequacy in solving any traffic problems that will occur due to the proposed use. The Zoning Hearing Board shall consider the impact study and the analysis of the impact study before the application is allowed or denied. In acting on the application, the Zoning Hearing Board may, if adverse impacts or major problems are identified:
(a) Reject the application.
(b) Require specific on- or off-site improvements as a condition of approval.
(c) Require the reduction of the intensity of use as a condition of approval.
(d) A combination of Subsection D(2)(b) and (c) hereinabove.
Fees and escrow deposits.
A. The applicant for any hearing before the Zoning Hearing Board shall at the time of making application pay the Zoning Officer, for the use of the municipality, a fee in accordance with a fee schedule adopted by resolution of the Board of Supervisors, and as such schedule may be amended from time to time. In addition, an escrow deposit may be required. The escrow deposit requirements shall be set from time to time by resolution of the Board of Supervisors.
B. The total fees payable for any one application shall be determined by the total number of specific reliefs separately sought, and the inclusion of more than one relief sought in any one application or application form will not avoid the obligation of the applicant to pay the multiple fees in accordance with the adopted fee schedule.
C. The Zoning Officer shall, subject to the modification of the Board, determine the actual nature and number of specific reliefs sought by any one application. Such determination shall be irrespective of the use by the respective applicant in his application of the descriptive terms "variance," "special exception" or "appeal," unless otherwise so indicated by the application.
Zoning Hearing Board; hearings.
Hearings pursuant to this chapter shall be held by the Zoning Hearing Board in accordance with the following requirements.
A. Public notice shall be given and written notice shall be given to the applicant, the Zoning Officer, such other persons as the Board of Supervisors shall designate by ordinance and to any person who has made timely request for the same. Written notices shall be given at such time and in such manner as shall be prescribed by ordinance or, in the absence of ordinance provision, by rules of the Zoning Hearing Board. In addition to the written notice provided herein, written notice of said hearing shall be conspicuously posted on the affected tract of land at least one week prior to the hearing.
B. The Board of Supervisors may prescribe reasonable fees by resolution with respect to hearings before the Zoning Hearing Board. Fees for said hearings may include compensation for the Secretary and members of the Zoning Hearing Board, notice and advertising costs and necessary administrative overhead connected with the hearing. The costs, however, shall not include legal expenses of the Zoning Hearing Board, expenses for engineering, architectural or other technical consultants or expert witness costs.
C. The hearing shall be held within 60 days from the date of the applicant's request, unless the applicant has agreed in writing to an extension of time.
D. The hearing shall be conducted by the Zoning Hearing Board, or the Zoning Hearing Board may appoint any member as a hearing officer. The decision or, where no decision is called for, the findings shall be made by the Zoning Hearing Board; however, the appellant or the applicant, as the case may be, in addition to the municipality, may, prior to the decision of the hearing, waive decisions or findings by the Zoning Hearing Board and accept the decision or findings of the hearing officer as final.
E. The parties to the hearing shall be the Township, any person affected by the application who has made timely appearance of record before the Zoning Hearing Board, and any other person, including civic or community organizations, permitted to appear by the Zoning Hearing Board. The Zoning Hearing Board shall have power to require that all persons who wish to be considered parties enter appearance in writing on forms provided by the Zoning Hearing Board for that purpose.
F. The Chairman or Acting Chairman of the Zoning Hearing Board or the hearing officer presiding shall have power to administer oaths and issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of relevant documents and papers, including witnesses and documents requested by the parties.
G. The parties shall have the right to be represented by counsel and shall be afforded the opportunity to respond and present evidence and argument and cross-examine adverse witnesses on all relevant issues.
H. Formal rules of evidence shall not apply, but irrelevant, immaterial or unduly repetitious evidence may be excluded.
I. The Zoning Hearing Board or the hearing officer, as the case maybe, shall keep a stenographic record of the proceedings. The appearance fee for a stenographer shall be shared equally by the applicant and the Zoning Hearing Board. The cost of the original transcript shall be paid by the Zoning Hearing Board if the transcript is ordered by the Zoning Hearing Board or hearing officer or shall be paid by the person appealing from the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board if such appeal is made, and in either event the cost of additional copies shall be paid by the person requesting such copy or copies. In other cases, the party requesting the original transcript shall bear the cost thereof.
J. The Zoning Hearing Board or the hearing officer shall not communicate, directly or indirectly, with any party or his representatives in connection with any issue involved except upon notice and where all parties have opportunity to participate. The Zoning Hearing Board or the hearing officer shall not take notice of any communication, report, staff memorandum, or other materials, except advice from its solicitor, unless all parties are afforded an opportunity to contest the material so noticed, and shall not inspect the site or its surroundings after the commencement of hearings with any party or his representative unless all parties are given an opportunity to be present.
K. The Zoning Hearing Board or the hearing officer, as the case may be, shall render a written decision or, when no decision is called for, make written findings on the application within 45 days after the last hearing before the Zoning Hearing Board or hearing officer. Where the application is contested or denied, each decision shall be accompanied by findings of fact and conclusions based thereon, together with the reasons therefor. Conclusions based on the provisions of any act of the commonwealth or any ordinance, rule or regulation shall contain a reference to the provision relied on and the reasons why the conclusion is deemed appropriate in light of the facts found. If the hearing is conducted by a hearing officer, and there has been no stipulation that his decision or findings are final, the Zoning Hearing Board shall make its report and recommendations available to the parties within 45 days, and the parties shall be entitled to make written representations thereon to the Zoning Hearing Board prior to the final decision or entry or findings, and the Zoning Hearing Board's decision shall be entered no later than 30 days after the report of the hearing officer. Where the Zoning Hearing Board fails to render its decision within the period required by this subsection, or fails to hold the required hearing within 60 days from the date of the applicant's request for a hearing, the decision shall be deemed to have been rendered in favor of the applicant unless the applicant has agreed in writing or on the record to an extension of time. When a decision has been rendered in favor of the applicant because of the failure of the Zoning Hearing Board to meet or render a decision as hereinabove provided, the Zoning Hearing Board shall give public notice of said decision within 10 days from the last day it could have met to render a decision in the same manner as provided in Subsection A of this section. If the Zoning Hearing Board shall fail to provide such notice, the applicant may do so. Nothing in this subsection shall prejudice the right of any party opposing the application to appeal the decision to a court of competent jurisdiction.
L. A copy of the final decision or, where no decision is called for, of the findings shall be delivered to the applicant personally or mailed to him not later than the day following its date. To all other persons who have filed their name and address with the Zoning Hearing Board not later than the last day of the hearing, the Zoning Hearing Board shall provide by mail or otherwise brief notice of the decision or findings and a statement of the place at which the full decision or findings may be examined.
Mediation option.
A. Parties to proceedings in Articles IX and X-A of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, Act 247, as amended by Act 170 (PA MPC),[1] may utilize mediation as an aid in completing such proceedings. In proceedings before the Zoning Hearing Board, in no case shall the Zoning Hearing Board initiate mediation or participate as a mediating party. Mediation shall supplement, not replace, those procedures in Articles IX and X-A of the PA MPC once they have been formally initiated. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as expanding or limiting municipal police powers or as modifying any principles of substantive law.
B. Participation in mediation shall be wholly voluntary.
The appropriateness of mediation shall be determined by the particulars of each case and the willingness of the parties to negotiate. The municipality shall assure that in each case, the mediating parties, assisted by the mediator as appropriate, develop terms and conditions for:
(1) Funding mediation.
(2) Selecting a mediator who, at a minimum, shall have a working knowledge of municipal zoning and subdivision procedures and demonstrated skills in mediation.
(3) Completing mediation, including time limits for such completion.
(4) Suspending time limits otherwise authorized in the PA MPC, provided there is written consent by the mediating parties and by an applicant or municipal decisionmaking body if either is not a party to the mediation.
(5) Identifying all parties and affording them the opportunity to participate.
(6) Subject to legal restraints, determining whether some or all of the mediation sessions shall be open or closed to the public.
(7) Assuring that mediated solutions are in writing and signed by the parties and become subject to review and approval by the appropriate decisionmaking body pursuant to the authorized procedures set forth in the PA MPC.
C. No offers or statements made in the mediation sessions, excluding the final written mediated agreement, shall be admissible as evidence in any subsequent judicial or administrative proceedings.
Parties appellant before Zoning Hearing Board.
Appeals under § 500-3106A(1), § 500-3106A(2), § 500-3106A(3), § 500-3106A(4) and § 500-3106A(7) of this chapter may be filed with the Zoning Hearing Board, in writing, by the landowner affected, any officer or agency of the Township, or any person aggrieved. Requests for a variance under § 500-3107: Zoning Hearing Board; variances and for special exception under § 500-3108: Zoning Hearing Board; special exceptions of this chapter may be filed with the Zoning Hearing Board by any landowner or any tenant with the permission of such landowner.
Validity of ordinance; substantive questions.
A. A landowner who, on substantive grounds, desires to challenge the validity of an ordinance or map or any provision thereof which prohibits or restricts the use or development of land in which he has an interest shall submit the challenge either:
(1) To the Zoning Hearing Board under § 500-3106A of this chapter.
B. Persons aggrieved by a use or development permitted on the land of another by an ordinance or map, or any provision thereof, who desire to challenge its validity on substantive grounds shall first submit their challenge to the Zoning Hearing Board for a decision thereon under § 500-3106A(1) of this chapter.
C. The submissions referred to in § 500-3114A and § 500-3114B shall be governed by the following:
(1) In challenges before the Zoning Hearing Board, the challenging party shall make a written request to the Zoning Hearing Board that it hold a hearing on its challenge. The request shall contain the reasons for the challenge. Where the landowner desires to challenge the validity of such ordinance and elects to proceed by curative amendment, his application to the Board of Supervisors shall contain, in addition to the requirements of the written request hereof, the plans and explanatory materials describing the use or development proposed by the landowner in lieu of the use or development permitted by the challenged ordinance or map. Such plans or other materials shall not be required to meet the standards prescribed for preliminary or final approval or for the issuance of a permit so long as they provide reasonable notice of the proposed use or development and a sufficient basis for evaluating the challenged ordinance or map in light thereof. Nothing herein contained shall preclude the landowner from first seeking a final approval before submitting his challenge.
(2) Based upon the testimony presented at the hearing or hearings, the Board of Supervisors or the Zoning Hearing Board, as the case may be, shall determine whether the challenged ordinance or map is defective, as alleged by the landowner. If a challenge heard by the Board of Supervisors is found to have merit, the Board of Supervisors may accept a landowner's curative amendment, with or without revision, or may adopt an alternative amendment which will cure the challenged defects. If a challenge heard by the Zoning Hearing Board is found to have merit, the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board shall include recommended amendments to the challenged ordinance which will cure the defects found. In reaching its decision, the Zoning Hearing Board or the Board of Supervisors, as the case may be, shall consider the amendments, plans and explanatory material submitted by the landowner and shall also consider:
(a) The impact of the proposal upon roads, sewer facilities, water supplies, schools and other public service facilities.
(b) If the proposal is for a residential use, the impact of the proposal upon regional housing needs and effectiveness of the proposal in providing housing units of a type actually available to and affordable by classes of persons otherwise unlawfully excluded by the challenged provisions of the ordinance or map.
(c) The suitability of the site for the intensity of use proposed by the site's soils, slopes, woodlands, wetlands, floodplains, aquifers, natural resources and other natural features.
(d) The impact of the proposed use on the site's soils, slopes, woodlands, wetlands, floodplains, aquifers, natural resources and natural features, the degree to which these are protected or destroyed, the tolerance of the resources to development and any adverse environmental impacts.
(e) The impact of the proposal on the preservation of agriculture and other land uses which are essential to public health and welfare.
(f) The Board of Supervisors or the Zoning Hearing Board, as the case may be, shall render its decision within 45 days after the conclusion of the last hearing.
(g) If the Board of Supervisors or the Zoning Hearing Board, as the case may be, fails to act on the landowner's request within the time limits referred to in § 500-3114C(5)(f), a denial of the request is deemed to have occurred on the 46th day after the close of the last hearing.
D. The Zoning Board or Board of Supervisors, as the case may be, shall commence its hearings within 60 days after the request is filed unless the landowner requests or consents to an extension of time.
E. Public notice of the hearing shall include notice that the validity of the ordinance or map is in question and shall give the place where and the times when a copy of the request, including any plans, explanatory material or proposed amendments, may be examined by the public.
F. The challenge shall be deemed denied when:
(1) The Zoning Hearing Board or Board of Supervisors, as the case may be, fails to commence the hearing within the time limits set forth in Subsection D.
(2) The Board of Supervisors notifies the landowner that it will not adopt the curative amendment.
(3) The Board of Supervisors adopts another curative amendment which is unacceptable to the landowner.
(4) The Zoning Hearing Board or Board of Supervisors, as the case may be, fails to act on the request 45 days after the close of the last hearing on the request, unless the time is extended by mutual consent by the landowner and Township.
G. Where, after the effective date of this chapter, a curative amendment proposal is approved by the grant of a curative amendment application by the Board of Supervisors pursuant to § 500-3106B(3) of this chapter or a validity challenge is sustained by the Zoning Hearing Board pursuant to § 500-3106A of this chapter or the court as finally on appeal from denial of a curative amendment proposal or a validity challenge, and the proposal or challenge so approved requires a further application for subdivision or land development, the developer shall have two years from the date of such approval to file an application for preliminary approval pursuant to Chapter 440: Subdivision and Land Development. Within the two-year period, no subsequent change or amendment in the zoning, subdivision and land development or other governing ordinance or plan shall be applied in any manner which adversely affects the rights of the applicant as granted in the curative amendment or the sustained validity challenge. Where the proposal appended to the curative amendment application or the validity challenge is approved but does not require further application under any subdivision or land development ordinance, the developer shall have one year within which to file for a building permit. Within the one-year period, no subsequent change or amendment in the zoning, subdivision and land development or other governing ordinance or plan shall be applied in any manner which adversely affects the rights of the applicant as granted in the curative amendment or the sustained validity challenge. During these protected periods, the court shall retain or assume jurisdiction for the purpose of awarding such supplemental relief as may be necessary.
H. If a municipality does not accept a landowner's curative amendment and a court subsequently rules that the challenge has merit, the court's decision shall not result in a declaration of invalidity for the entire Zoning Ordinance and Map but only for those provisions which specifically relate to the landowner's curative amendment and challenge.
Court appeals.
All appeals from all land use decisions rendered pursuant to this article shall be taken to the Court of Common Pleas of the judicial district wherein the land is located and shall be filed within 30 days after entry of the decision or, in the case of a deemed decision, within 30 days after the notice of said deemed decision is given as set forth in § 500-3111K of this chapter.
See Article XXXI: Zoning Hearing Board and Board of Supervisors for more information.
See Building and Zoning for information on the Zoning Hearing Board.