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HEIDORN APPEAL. (11/27/63)

November 27, 1963

IN RE HEIDORN APPEAL.


Appeal, No. 133, March T., 1963, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County, June T., 1960, No. 508, in re appeal of Herman Heidorn and Edna Mae Heidorn from decision of Board of Adjustment and Appeals of Stonycreek Township. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Roger W. Hager, for appellant.

No argument was made nor brief submitted for appellee.

Before Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'brien and Roberts, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 412 Pa. Page 571]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

On November 6, 1953, Herman Heidorn and Edna Mae Heidorn, his wife, purchased in Stonycreek Township, Cambria County, a one story frame house which sat back 25 feet from Coldren Street on which it fronted. The dwelling was ornamented with an ugly, gabled wooden projection above the outer doorway, intended presumably to protect visitors from the rain as they knocked at the door for admittance. Beneath their feet the visitors stood on another ungainly projection (this one of stone) called a stoop. The lower contrivance measured 6 to 7 feet in width and extended forward toward Coldren Street 4 or 5 feet. The dimensions of the miniature roof extended a little beyond the measurements of the stoop below, for a good reason. Otherwise, the visitor would receive not only the rain from the skies but the water collection and falling from the overhanging wooden gargoyle.

For reasons which are unexplained, this porch roof has been referred to in this case by witnesses and lawyers as a "stoop", so that, if this terminology were to be accepted as correct, the house was equipped in 1953 with two stoops. Webster's Dictionary defines a stoop as "a raised platform at the entrance of a house with steps and, usually, seats; hence, any small porch at the entrance of a house."

The overhead eyesore has, therefore, incorrectly been called a "stoop". For purposes of clarity, it will be called hence forth an overhang.

[ 412 Pa. Page 572]

On March 11, 1958, Stonycreek Township enacted an ordinance (which was re-enacted on April 28, 1959), providing that the building line of all dwellings would be 25 feet from the street. In July, 1959, the Heidorns had their house covered with aluminum siding. In this operation the overhang and the underfoot stoop were removed and replaced by an 18-foot-wide aluminum awning, extending 10 1/2 feet forwardly away from the house. The stoop was replaced by a concrete slab of a size slightly smaller than the overhead aluminum awning so that drippings from the awning would fall on the ground and not on the concrete and people standing thereon. The awning was supported by four slender ornamental wrought iron posts.

Shortly after these improvements were made, the township informed the Heidorns that their awning and slab encroached on setback territory. The Heidorns at once applied to the zoning board of adjustment for a variance, which was refused. They then petitioned the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County for a variance, submitting that the original overhang and stoop were a nonconformance of the zoning ordinance which had been enacted prior to the purchase of the house by the Heidorns, and that the installation of the awning and platform did not produce such a substantial change in status that the householders lost the privilege of a nonconforming use.

The court took additional testimony and granted the variance. The board filed exceptions and the court, in considering the exceptions, concluded that the applicants were not entitled to a variance but that they could legally retain the improvements described, because they amounted to a reasonable extension of a nonconformance. Did the court of common pleas abuse ...


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