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RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH APPEAL. (06/30/59)

June 30, 1959

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH APPEAL.


Appeal, No. 36, March T., 1959, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, June T., 1958, No. 218, in re appeal of Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Ghost, of Ambridge, Pennsylvania, from refusal of a permit by Rochester Township Zoning Board of Adjustment. Order affirmed. Appeal by property owner from decision of township zoning board of adjustment refusing to grant cemetery permit. Adjudication filed affirming decision of board and dismissing appeal, and order entered. Church appealed.

COUNSEL

Carl M. Kerchner, with him Angel & Kerchner, for appellant.

J. Frank Kelker, for appellee.

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

Author: Cohen

[ 397 Pa. Page 127]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE COHEN

Appellant purchased some eighty-eight acres of land in the so-called Sunflower District of Rochester Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, and wishes to use this land as a cemetery.

The Township of Rochester has a zoning ordinance which divides the township into three districts. With regard to the Sunflower District, Section 100 provides, "The Sunflower District is zoned primarily for residential and agricultural uses as now exist in the District." (Emphasis supplied). Section 201 of the ordinance sets forth more specifically the uses to which land in that district may be put.*fn1

[ 397 Pa. Page 128]

In Section 201(4) the ordinance provides that the following uses may be made of land in the Sunflower District, namely: "Educational, religious, philanthropic use and hospital." It is appellant's position that a cemetery is a religious use and hence permitted in the Sunflower District.

We are not called upon nor would we attempt to construe the word "religious" in the abstract. Our sole function in this case is to ascertain whether the enactors of the Rochester Township Zoning Ordinance intended to permit a cemetery in the Sunflower District as a so-called religious use.

It should first be noted that the Sunflower District is zoned primarily for residential and agricultural uses. A cemetery clearly does not come within either of these. It is apparent from a reading of Section 201 in its entirety that those uses permitted therein which are not purely agricultural or purely residential are ancillary to them. These general observations are helpful in delineating the scope to be given to the word "religious." They are helpful primarily because it is assumed as one of the basic premises of zoning that area homogeneity is one of the ends sought by a zoning ordinance. The above discussion is necessary and helpful because the word "religious" is a word of nebulous bounds and depends for its definition, if construed in the abstract, upon the ...


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