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HARRISBURG v. PASS (01/05/53)

January 5, 1953


Appeal No. 6, May T., 1953, from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, June T., 1951, No. 201, in case of City of Harrisburg v. Charles M. Pass et ux. Decree affirmed.


Stanley G. Stroup, with him Joseph Nissley and Livengood and Nissley, for appellants.

Spencer G. Hall, City Solicitor, with him James S. Bowman, Assistant City Solicitor, for appellee.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Chidsey and Musmanno, JJ.

Author: Stern

[ 372 Pa. Page 319]


Defendants were found guilty by an alderman on a charge of having begun the construction of a building on a tract of land owned by them without having first secured a zoning permit required by an ordinance of the City of Harrisburg. They appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, which affirmed the conviction. Defendants now appeal from that affirmance.

In November, 1949 defendants purchased the land in question, located at the northeast corner of Front and Vaughn Streets in Harrisburg. Planning to erect and conduct thereon a motel or automobile tourist camp, they employed an architect and applied for a building permit on March 9, 1950.*fn* At that time there was no zoning ordinance in force which prohibited such construction and operation. Four days later, on March 13, some of the neighbors filed a bill in equity to enjoin the erection of the proposed motor court on the ground that it would constitute a nuisance per se, and

[ 372 Pa. Page 320]

    on March 20 the same or other neighbors filed a bill to enjoin the City officials from issuing the permit for which defendants had applied. On April 5 defendants instituted an action in mandamus against the City to compel the issuance of the permit. On August 3 the court enjoined defendants from erecting and operating the tourist camp but refused either to restrain the City from issuing the permit or to mandamus it to do so; on August 22, however, the court ordered the City to issue the permit. Accordingly the permit was issued to defendants on September 7. From the decree of the court enjoining them from constructing and maintaining the tourist camp defendants appealed to this court, which on May 21, 1951 reversed the decree of the lower court and held that such erection and maintenance should not have been enjoined as a nuisance per se; (Menger v. Pass, 367 Pa. 432, 80 A.2d 702). On October 3, 1950 the City of Harrisburg had meanwhile enacted a zoning ordinance under which an area including defendants' land became classified as an R-1 Residence Zone, in which there were permitted only single family detached dwellings, churches, schools, libraries, government buildings and parks. After this court reversed the injunction granted by the court below, defendants, without having applied for a zoning permit, began excavation work preliminary to the construction of the tourist camp on their land, whereupon, on June 15, 1951 the prosecution before the alderman, which is the subject of the present litigation, was instituted.

The first attack made by defendants is on the title of the City's zoning ordinance, which is as follows: "An Ordinance regulating and restricting the bulk and size of buildings and other structures, the location and use of buildings, structures and land for trade, industry, residence, or other purposes; establishing zones

[ 372 Pa. Page 321]

    and the boundaries thereof for said purposes; providing for the appointment of a Zoning Administrator and a Board of Appeals and setting forth the duties and functions of said Administrator and said Board; providing for the administration and enforcement of this Ordinance including the payment of fees; and providing penalties for violation thereof." It is contended that this title does not expressly indicate that a zoning permit from the Administrator is required under section 18(c) of the ordinance prior to construction of a building and therefore it does not comply with the requirements of Article III, section 3 of the Constitution and Article X, section 1011 of The Third Class City Law of June 23, 1931, P.L. 932. There has been so much previous discussion by this court in regard to the titles of legislative acts and ordinances that it would be a mere work of supererogation to attempt to add thereto. Reference is made to the principles enunciated in such authorities as Commonwealth v. Stofchek, 322 Pa. 513, 185 A. 840; Gumpert's Estate, 343 Pa. 405, 23 A.2d 479; Moreland Estate, 351 Pa. 623, 42 A.2d 63; Commonwealth v. American Gas Company, 352 Pa. 113, 42 A.2d 161; and Commonwealth v. Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, 369 Pa. 560, 87 A.2d 255. Those cases establish that the title of an act need not be an index of its provisions nor a synopsis of its contents, that it is sufficient if it gives notice of its tenor to interested persons of a reasonably inquiring state of mind, that so long as it ...

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