Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County in case of Tom Swift v. The Zoning Hearing Board of East Hempfield Township, Trust Book 42, Page 332.
Tom Swift, appellant, for himself.
Charles B. Grove, Jr., with him Blakinger, Grove & Chillas, P.C., for appellee.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Rogers and DiSalle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge DiSalle. Judge Rogers concurs in result only.
[ 33 Pa. Commw. Page 443]
This is an appeal by Tom Swift (Appellant) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County which affirmed the denial by the Zoning Hearing Board of East Hempfield Township (Board) of Appellant's application for a variance or a special exception to improve his property with a dwelling.*fn1
Appellant purchased a parcel of land in East Hempfield Township at a tax sale in 1967 for the sum of $170.00. The land contains 33,000 square feet and is located in a district for which the East Hempfield
[ 33 Pa. Commw. Page 444]
Zoning Ordinance (Ordinance) requires a minimum lot area of 10,000 square feet, a minimum width of seventy-five feet at the setback line, and a minimum of fifty feet frontage on a street. Except for three separate, narrow, access strips extending from this tract to public streets, it is completely encircled by the rear yards of other residential lots in the plan, which lots are improved with dwellings. Each access strip is approximately 140 feet long and 15 feet wide. Appellant's land cannot be improved with a dwelling without violating the frontage and minimum width at the setback line requirements of the Ordinance.
Our scope of review in zoning cases where the court below took no additional evidence is limited to a determination of whether the Board abused its discretion or committed an error of law.*fn2
We must first consider the propriety of the Board's denial of Appellant's request for a variance. The law is clear that a variance from a zoning ordinance may be granted only in exceptional circumstances where the applicant proves that present zoning restrictions result in an unnecessary hardship unique or peculiar to the property and that the grant of a variance would not be adverse to the public health, safety, and welfare.*fn3 A variance will not be granted to the applicant when he knew or should have known of the existing zoning regulations and the problems bringing about the hardship at the time he purchased the property.*fn4 Such a hardship is self-inflicted.*fn5 In the present case, Appellant had examined the Ordinance and the property and was fully aware of the zoning problems before
[ 33 Pa. Commw. Page 445]
he purchased the land. Appellant seeks to avoid the onus of his self-inflicted hardship by arguing that his situation falls within the law announced in Jacquelin v. Horsham ...