Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County in case of Appeal of Suburban General Hospital from Decision of East Norriton Township Zoning Hearing Board, No. 78-01759.
J. Edmund Mullin, with him, Coleen Park McCusker, Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin & Maxwell, for appellant.
Mabel D. Sellers, with her, Raymond Jenkins, Leigh P. Narducci, Jenkins, Tarquini & Jenkins, for appellee.
Judges Rogers, DiSalle and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.
[ 48 Pa. Commw. Page 274]
Suburban General Hospital operates a primary health care facility within an area of East Norriton Township zoned IN-Institutional.
Since 1972, shortly after Suburban General opened, helicopters have sporadically delivered emergency patients by landing on the front lawn of the hospital grounds. Currently, that is the only site available among the three Norristown area hospitals to disembark patients by helicopter.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Bureau of Aviation, approved the front lawn site. In April of 1976, the Bureau of Aviation, after an inspection, licensed that site as a heliport.
At about the same time, the hospital requested a permit to blacktop an area with a 40-foot diameter on the front lawn, for use as a landing pad which could provide additional safety for the helicopter landings.*fn1
[ 48 Pa. Commw. Page 275]
At that time, the township zoning ordinance lacked any reference to heliports.
The township amended its zoning ordinance on February 8, 1977 to permit "personal use heliports" as a special exception, subject to Bureau of Aviation licensure, fencing and 100-foot setback.*fn2
The hospital applied for that special exception but the Zoning Hearing Board of East Norriton Township rejected the application on the ground that applicant had not met its burden of showing that the operation*fn3 of a heliport would not be detrimental to the general safety in the area. Specifically, the board rejected the testimony of applicant's four expert witnesses*fn4 that the selected site was the safest on the premises and adopted the reservations expressed by the township planning commission and the township ...