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SUN OIL COMPANY v. ZONING BOARD ADJUSTMENT. (03/23/61)

THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


March 23, 1961

SUN OIL COMPANY, APPELLANT,
v.
ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT.

Appeal, No. 37, March T., 1961, from order of County Court of Allegheny County, No. A 2089 of 1959, in case of Sun Oil Company v. Zoning Board of Adjustment of the City of Pittsburgh. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Clair V. Duff, with him Robert A. Doyle, and Duff & Doyle, for appellant.

Frederick A. Boehm, Assistant City Solicitor, with him David Stahl, City Solicitor, for zoning board of adjustment, appellee.

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

Author: Jones

[ 403 Pa. Page 410]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BENJAMIN R. JONES.

Sun Oil Company (Sun) is the equitable owner of a tract of land located at the corner of Saw Mill Run Boulevard and Edgebrook Avenue in Pittsburgh. This tract extends 151 feet along the northerly side of Saw Mill Run Boulevard and 50 feet along the westerly side of Edgebrook Avenue and is within a district zoned as an "M-1" Limited Industrial District wherein an automobile and gasoline service station is a permissive use.*fn1 Saw Mill Run Boulevard, a four-lane highway, is a major traffic approach to downtown Pittsburgh and bears very heavy vehicular traffic.

Proposing to use this land as the site of an automobile and gasoline service station, on June 3, 1959 Sun submitted a "site plan application" to the Department of City Planning of Pittsburgh and, on July 17, 1959, Sun was notified that its application had been disapproved because the proposed distance between

[ 403 Pa. Page 411]

    vehicular "access points on the land" represented too great a departure from the requirements of section 2401-6, article 24 of the zoning ordinance which provides, inter alia, that "vehicular access points shall be limited, where possible, to intervals of not less than three hundred (300) feet when on a major traffic thorofare."

On August 28, 1959, Sun applied to the Superintendent of Building Inspection for a building and occupancy permit which application was denied because the "site plan application" had been disapproved. On August 31, 1959 Sun appealed to the board of adjustment (board). After a hearing, the board upheld the denial of the permit and from that decision Sun appealed to the County Court of Allegheny County which on March 26, 1960 remanded the matter to the board for the taking of further testimony. After taking additional testimony, the board again upheld the denial of this permit and, without taking any further testimony, the County Court of Allegheny County entered an order which sustained the board's decision and dismissed Sun's appeal. From that order this appeal has been taken.

Sun contends both that section 2401-6, article 24, of the zoning ordinance is unconstitutional and that the board abused its discretion in the denial of a permit.

Section 2401-6 of the ordinance requires that applicants must submit to the Planning Commission a "site plan" upon which must be shown, inter alia, "the location of vehicular access onto the site". The focal point of Sun's attack is the second paragraph of section 2401-6 which provides: "In considering any site plan hereunder, the Commission shall endeavor to assure safety and convenience of traffic movement, both within the site covered and in relation to access streets, and harmonious and beneficial relationship of

[ 403 Pa. Page 412]

    station operators. This position, if adopted, would negative any effort by municipal action to meet and solve safety and general welfare problems as they arise and plan for the future in urban areas....

"In its zoning ordinance the City of Pittsburgh has undertaken to regulate vehicular access points of ingress and egress with respect to property abutting major traffic thoroughfares for the purpose of assuring safety and convenience of traffic movement. Maintaining the continuous flow of traffic without undue delays is a proper concern in promoting safety and serving the general welfare in the use of public highways. The layout and design of gasoline service station access points, including the distance between the point where a motor vehicle enters a station, and where, after being serviced, leaves the station, is substantially related to preserving and promoting safety on major traffic thoroughfares. Adequate distance between access points tends to avoid the likelihood of congestion on the station driveways, and to prevent situations where vehicles waiting to enter protrude into the highway traffic lanes. Such regulations contribute to maintaining a continuous flow of traffic and the avoidance of the collision of motor vehicles on the highways, and are neither unreasonable nor arbitrary and are within the legitimate purposes of the police power." Sun's claims of invalidity of this provision in this respect is without merit.

Sun next urges that the provisions of the ordinance are vague, indefinite and capricious. If a legislative enactment is vague and indefinite so that courts are unable to determine with any reasonable degree of certainty the intent of the legislative body or so incomplete, conflicting and inconsistent in its provisions that it cannot be executed, such enactment will be deemed invalid: Willcox v. Penn Mutual Life Ins. Co., 357 Pa. 581, 595, 55 A.2d 521; Panther Valley Television

[ 403 Pa. Page 414]

    the ordinance. [citing cases]" In the present ordinance, over and above the general purposes of the ordinance embodied in Section 106, the provision under attack provides that in considering a "site plan", "... the Commission shall endeavor to assure safety and convenience of traffic movement, both within the site covered and in relationship to access streets, and harmonious and beneficial relationship of structures and uses on the site as well as contiguous properties..." The legislative body - the Council of the City of Pittsburgh - both in Section 106 and Section 2401-6 has prescribed standards to control the determinations of the Commission which are adequate and sufficient. The ordinance does not constitute an unlawful delegation of legislative power.

Lastly, Sun urges that the board abused its discretion. We have carefully examined this entire record and we are satisfied that the board's conclusion that a building permit be denied Sun was arrived at without caprice and upon the basis of testimony which indicated that to permit use of this land under the circumstances as an automobile and gasoline service station would result in a hazard and danger to the public travelling on Saw Mill Run Boulevard.

Absent a commission of errors of law or an abuse of discretion, we must uphold the board's decision.

Disposition

Order affirmed. Costs on Sun.


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