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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. BOROUGH BENDERSVILLE (05/17/76)

decided: May 17, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, PENNSYLVANIA HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION
v.
BOROUGH OF BENDERSVILLE, THE BOROUGH COUNCIL, DALE E. CLARK, MAYOR, GEORGE SCHRIVER, PRESIDENT OF THE BOROUGH COUNCIL, APPELLANTS



Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in case of Pedro Vega v. Borough of Bendersville, Pennsylvania; Dale E. Clark, Mayor; George Schriver, President, Borough Council; and the Borough Council of the Borough of Bendersville, Docket No. H-1945.

COUNSEL

Walter W. Wilt, with him Hepford, Zimmerman & Swartz, for appellants.

Sanford Kahn, General Counsel, for appellee.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Judge Kramer did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Blatt

[ 24 Pa. Commw. Page 504]

This is an appeal from a decision and order of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (Commission) in which the Borough of Bendersville (Borough) and its governing officials (appellants) were found to have violated Sub-section 5(h)(3) of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act*fn1 (Act) by denying building and sewage permits to Mr. Pedro Vega, thereby preventing him from constructing a commercial-residential building on his property.

In May of 1972, Mr. Vega purchased a tract of land in the Borough on which he desired to build a combined grocery store and four-bedroom residential structure for himself and his family. To construct this building he secured a building permit from the appropriate borough official on June 6, 1972. On June 29, 1972, he secured a sewage permit from another official, but this permit provided for the construction of a two-bedroom residential

[ 24 Pa. Commw. Page 505]

    structure only. This obvious discrepancy between the permits as to the nature of the structure to be erected apparently arose as a result of language difficulties between Vega, who is a citizen of Puerto Rican origin, and the official who issued the sewage permit. When, however, the Borough Council later learned that sewage permits for commercial structures could be issued only by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources, both sewage and building permits were revoked. It is apparently agreed by all herein concerned that strict compliance with state and local laws would have compelled the appellants to have denied issuing the permits to Vega in the first place. The Commission found, however, that appellants generally tolerated non-compliance with the laws here concerned but strictly enforced them against Vega because of his national origin. The Commission concluded, therefore, that the appellants had violated Subsection 5(h)(3) of the Act by discriminating against Vega because of his national origin, in furnishing services and privileges in connection with the ownership of "commercial housing."

In their appeal from the Commission's decision, the appellants argue that "commercial housing" is not involved in the case and that Sub-section 5(h)(3) would not apply. Sub-section 5(h)(3) provides:

"It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice . . .

"(h) For any person to:

"(3) Discriminate against any person in the terms or conditions of selling or leasing any commercial housing or in furnishing facilities, services or privileges in connection with the ownership, occupancy or use of any commercial housing because of the race, color, religious creed, ancestry, sex, national origin or handicap or disability of any present or prospective owner, occupant or user of such commercial housing or to ...


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