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ENGLISH v. ZONING BOARD ADJUSTMENT. (03/16/59)

March 16, 1959

ENGLISH, APPELLANT,
v.
ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT.



Appeal, No. 73, Jan. T., 1959, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Feb. T., 1958, No. 21, in case of John A. English et al. v. Zoning Board of Adjustment of the Borough of Norristown. Order reversed.

COUNSEL

Robert W. Tredinnick, with him Smillie, Bean, Davis & Tredinnick, for appellants.

Robert W. Honeyman, with him Fox, Differ & Honeyman, for appellee.

Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Musmanno, Jones, Cohen and Mcbride, JJ.

Author: Cohen

[ 395 Pa. Page 119]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE COHEN

Plaintiffs (neighbors of the applicant) protest the order of the lower court affirming the grant of a variance by the board of adjustment. The variance permitted the applicant to operate a beauty shop in a dwelling located in a "B" Residential District in Norristown.

The premises in question is one of three double dwellings on the north side of the 1200 block of West Main Street. The north side of that block consists of the three double dwellings, a well kept vacant lot and a corner property occupied by the Hamilton Hotel. On the south side of the 1200 block of West Main Street and opposite the applicant's property is a large modern super market and an extensive paved parking area; to the west of the super market is a nursing home. The north side of the 1100 block of West Main Street is made up of ten (10) residential buildings, four (4) of which are occupied in part by medical offices and a photographer's studio. The south side of the 1100 block of West Main Street is also made up of a mixture of residential and commercial uses. It is readily apparent from these facts that the applicant's property is in a mixed residential and commercial area. The lower court described this area as "boundary blight, a form of economic disease which attacks unwisely zoned real estate." The opinion emphasizes "boundary blight" and the need for changes and modifications in marginal areas which "judged by the standards of ordinary

[ 395 Pa. Page 120]

    common sense and justice ..." requires the conclusion of the board in granting the variance.

This is not a very involved zoning problem. The applicable law is simple and is governed by Michener Appeal, 382 Pa. 401, 115 A.2d 367 (1955), where we held that before a variance may be granted by the board it must be shown that the circumstances that affect the land are unique and applicable to that land alone and are not conditions that affect the whole neighborhood. Only a hardship peculiar to the applicant's property merits an allowance of a variance. If there is a general hardship the situation should be remedied by a revision of the general zoning regulation, not by the grant of a special privilege to single owners.

The lower court maintained that the condition here present dealt with neighborhood changes that did not affect all of the property in the district, but changes that imposed a hardship only on a small group of double dwellings on West Main Street. The lower court said, the changed conditions being a proper subject for amelioration "do not call for a complete reclassification. They do, however, strongly call for a measure of relief along this short section of the border of the district." The court then proceeded to affirm the board's grant of relief.

The lower court erred in improperly concluding that the changed conditions worked a hardship only on a small group of double dwellings on West Main Street. The evidence indicates that the uses of all the properties in the areas in proximity to applicant's property are affected by the invasion of commercial enterprises. The areas in question are now subject to increased traffic, increased noise and varied commercial and ...


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