Building Inspector's action in light of the litigation pending in the Common Pleas Court of Montgomery County. The Court is of the position that abstention is appropriate under the facts and circumstances of this case, but for slightly different reasons than those advanced by the defendants.
In response to the appeal filed by Resources from the Board of Adjustment's initial denial of the request for a special exception, the State Court directed the issuance of the special exception subject to the condition that the dwelling be made to conform with fire, safety, and health regulations of the borough and state applicable to institutional use. Pursuant to the State Court order, the Board of Adjustment granted the special exception and imposed upon the applicant the identical conditions and requirements contained in the court order. The restrictions relative to compliance with fire and safety regulations applicable to institutional use did not originate from the Borough of Narberth but were explicitly set forth in the State Court order of December 19, 1973. Similarly, defendant Furber's denial of the building permit was not a product of his own unfettered discretion. The Building Inspector reviewed the plans and specifications submitted by Resources in light of the orders of the State Court and the Narberth Board of Adjustment. Furber's designation of the dwelling as an "asylum" was based upon and limited to the classification of structures enumerated in Section 300.3 of the Building Code, entitled "Institutional Buildings." The requirement of fireproof construction is set forth in Section 403.2 which states essentially that asylums, hospitals and nurseries "shall be of fireproof construction."
Were this Court to grant the relief requested by the plaintiffs, we would in effect be overruling the order of the Common Pleas Court of Montgomery County. In granting the special exception, the State Court imposed the condition concerning conformity with institutional fire and safety regulations. The Borough of Narberth and the Building Inspector did no more than follow the prescriptions of the State Court. Plaintiffs' source of relief is properly in the State Courts wherefrom came the restrictions as to the use of the subject dwelling. Indeed, the above conclusion finds support in the fact that plaintiffs have filed an appeal from the State Court order.
In arriving at the conclusion that the issue of the validity of the restrictions imposed on the Narberth property should be resolved in the State Court, this Court has placed considerable emphasis on the existence of state appellate procedures whereby persons may appeal from an adverse decision of a local zoning board to the Court of Common Pleas and then to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. Sections 11001 through 11011 of 53 P.S. permit a landowner who desires to seek review or correction of the decision of a local board to appeal directly to the Court of Common Pleas. If a landowner is aggrieved by a ruling of the Common Pleas Court, an appeal may be taken to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. The Pennsylvania Appellate Court Jurisdiction Act of 1970, 17 P.S. § 211.402(4), vests in the Commonwealth Court exclusive jurisdiction of appeals from final orders of the Courts of Common Pleas in all proceedings arising under any borough zoning code. P.L.E. Municipal Corporations § 468; Campbell v. Zoning Hearing Board of Plymouth Twp., 10 Pa. Cmwlth. 251, 310 A.2d 444 (1973); Boulevard Land Corporation v. Zoning Board of Adjustment of the City of Philadelphia, 8 Pa. Cmwlth. 584, 303 A.2d 234 (1973).
In that the plaintiffs have already filed an appeal in Common Pleas Court and have the statutory right to further appeal to the Commonwealth Court, it would be seriously inimical to the notions of judicial comity and federalism for this Court to render a decision which would effectively overturn a State Court ruling. While the Building Inspector personally ruled upon the application for the building permit, it was the order of the State Court which required the dwelling to conform the fire and safety regulations applicable to institutional use. The case of Lynch v. Snepp, 472 F.2d 769 (4th Cir. 1973), involved the granting of a Federal injunction which had the effect of restraining in part the enforcement of a state injunction entered to control access to various public schools beset by violence and disruption. The Court of Appeals, in reversing the District Court's grant of a preliminary injunction, held that there was a "presumption against federal interference" which is overcome only by a showing that the moving parties will suffer irreparable injury and that there is no adequate remedy at law. 472 F.2d at p. 774. It cannot be argued that the plaintiffs herein do not have an adequate remedy at law. As previously discussed, plaintiffs may appeal the order of the Common Pleas Court to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court and, if necessary, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Nor does it appear on the face of the complaint that plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm unless this Court intervenes.
The facts and circumstances of this case do not permit the application of the traditional or classical abstention principles. We are not presented with an unresolved question of state law which only the State Courts can authoritatively construe and which may by virtue of such an authoritative construction avoid the decision of a Federal constitutional issue. E.g., Conover v. Montemuro, 477 F.2d 1073, 1079 (3rd Cir. 1973). Nor are we confronted with a request by a defendant to intervene in pending state criminal proceedings, where abstention would be appropriate absent a showing of bad faith or harassment. E.g., Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 27 L. Ed. 2d 669, 91 S. Ct. 746 (1971); Lewis v. Kugler, 446 F.2d 1343 (3rd Cir. 1971). What we are faced with here is an attempt by plaintiffs to utilize the Civil Rights Act, specifically 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as a substitute for the right of appeal in State Court. Having initiated the state judicial process by appealing first from the Board's denial of the request for a special exception and then from the order of the Common Pleas Court of Montgomery County, plaintiffs must pursue their claims through the State Courts. Roy v. Jones, 484 F.2d 96 (3rd Cir. 1973); Coogan v. Cincinnati Bar Association, 431 F.2d 1209 (6th Cir. 1970).
Furthermore, the interpretation and application of a municipal building code to a particular dwelling necessarily presents an issue of state and local concern. While, technically, there is no unresolved question of state law raised here, the implementation of a State Court order granting a special exception and the compliance or noncompliance of a structure with a local building code clearly involve questions more properly resolved on the state and local level. Reichman v. Pittsburgh National Bank, 465 F.2d 16 (3rd Cir. 1972).
For the reasons enumerated above, defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted.
AND NOW, TO WIT, this 22nd day of January, 1975, upon consideration of the motion of defendants to dismiss the complaint, the Court finds that this matter is one more properly to be resolved in the State Courts, and it is
ORDERED that the motion of defendants is granted.
LOUIS C. BECHTLE, J.