Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County in case of Bruce Rothrock v. The Zoning Hearing Board of Whitehall Township, No. 46 January Term, 1973.
Paul M. Eyster, for appellant.
James C. Lanshe, with him Lanshe, Lanshe and Lanshe, for intervening appellees.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Mencer and Rogers, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer.
[ 13 Pa. Commw. Page 441]
This is an appeal by Bruce Rothrock (Rothrock) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County affirming a decision of the Whitehall Township Zoning Hearing Board (Board) denying his application for a permit to maintain a free-standing sign on his property.
Rothrock has conducted an automobile sales business at Fifth and Pennsylvania Streets in the Township of Whitehall since sometime in 1960, at which time his property was zoned for such use. In 1968 the zoning of this location was changed to R-2 (residential), and Rothrock's business, which was not permitted in an R-2 zone, became a nonconforming use. In 1971 the
[ 13 Pa. Commw. Page 442]
township zoning code provisions regarding signs were amended.
In May of 1973, without a permit, Rothrock removed a sign which had been on his property prior to the 1968 zoning change and replaced it with a new sign. There is no dispute that this old sign was part of the nonconforming use of Rothrock's property created by the 1968 zoning change.
After receiving notice from the township zoning officer that a permit was necessary for his new sign, Rothrock applied for a permit on the ground that he was "restoring and renewing a noncornforming use." His application was denied by the zoning officer and the Board on the basis that it did not conform to the provisions of the 1971 ordinance regulating signs. After Robert F. Brennen, a neighbor, was permitted to intervene, the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County affirmed the decision of the Board. This appeal by Rothrock then followed.
Our scope of review in zoning cases in which, as here, the court below did not take additional testimony is limited to a determination of whether the Board abused its discretion or committed an error of law. The Boulevard Land Corporation v. Zoning Board of Adjustment, 8 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 584, 303 A.2d 234 (1973). A review of the Board's opinion convinces us that the Board erred as a matter of law in denying Rothrock's application for a permit to maintain his sign as a continuance of a nonconforming use. We therefore reverse.
We agree with Rothrock that the only real issue involved in this appeal is whether, in replacing the old sign with a new sign, he was continuing the same nonconforming ...