Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County in case of In Re: Appeal of Central Penn National Bank from a Decision of the Zoning Hearing Board of Bensalem Township, No. 78-6067-04-5.
Leslie G. Dias, with him Henry F. Huhn, for appellant.
Steven P. Burkett, with him Krimsky, Luterman, Stein & Levy; William E. Benner ; and Power, Bowen & Valimont, for appellees.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr. and Mencer, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Wilkinson, Jr.
[ 47 Pa. Commw. Page 335]
This zoning matter is before the Court on an appeal from a decision of the court of common pleas which reversed a decision of the township zoning hearing board and directed the reissuance of 63 dwelling unit building permits. The facts are not in dispute.
Section 1 of a proposed building plan was approved on May 9, 1973. Approval of 214 building
[ 47 Pa. Commw. Page 336]
permits was obtained for units to be placed on 19 acres. This was in accord with the then zoning ordinance which permitted 12 units per acre. Construction began promptly in June, 1973. By September, 1975, when construction stopped 76 units were completed, 36 of which were sold and 30 of these occupied. An additional 56 units were in various stages of construction with 19 more having foundations poured. The basic utilities and landscaping had been completed for the entire project. In February, 1976, appellee confessed judgment on the mortgage, and sheriff sale was scheduled for April 10, 1976. This sale was stayed by order of the Bankruptcy Court on April 8, 1976. The stay was subsequently removed and the sale held on July 8, 1977, when appellee acquired title.
Appellee's application for the reissuance of the 63 permits was rejected by the zoning officer as well as the zoning hearing board on the basis that the three-year protective period provided by Section 508(4) of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (Code), Act of July 31, 1968, P.L. 805, as amended, 53 P.S. § 10508(4) had expired and the amended zoning ordinance allowed only four units per acre.
This would seem to be a case of first impression in the appellate courts of the Commonwealth but certainly not in this Common Pleas Court of Bucks County. We quote from Judge Bodley's opinion:
We have recognized and have held that the Legislature could not have intended that the three-year limitation found in Section 508(4) be so inflexibly interpreted so as to demand that every unit of a given construction project be in a state of completion by the end of three years. Such a ...