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ROBERT E. ANDERSON AND DOROTHY A. ANDERSON v. BOARD SUPERVISORS PRICE TOWNSHIP (12/22/81)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: December 22, 1981.

ROBERT E. ANDERSON AND DOROTHY A. ANDERSON, HIS WIFE, APPELLANTS
v.
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF PRICE TOWNSHIP, MONROE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of the 43rd Judicial District, Monroe County Branch, in the case of Robert E. Anderson and Dorothy A. Anderson, his wife v. Board of Supervisors of Price Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, No. 199 October Term, 1978.

COUNSEL

David W. Knauer, Robinson, Hoffner & Billick, for appellants.

Kennard Lewis, Scanlon, Lewis & Williamson, for appellee.

Marc R. Wolfe, Mervine, Brown, Newman, Williams and Mishkin, P.C., for intervenor.

Judges Williams, Jr., MacPhail and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr.

Author: Williams

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 336]

In this appeal from the denial of a subdivision application, landowners Robert and Dorothy Anderson ask this Court to establish both the applicability of Section 508(2) of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC),*fn1 and the relevance of deed restrictions to the adverse decision of the Board of Supervisors of Price Township (Board).

The Andersons own a tract in a subdivision composed entirely of three-acre lots. When the Board denied them permission to further subdivide their land into two 1 1/2 acre plots, the Andersons appealed to the Court of Common Pleas, which affirmed the Board's decision. In assigning error to the opinions below, the landowners allege (1) that the decision of the Board does not comply with the specificity requirements of Section 508(2)*fn2 of the MPC, and (2) that the Board incorrectly denied approval of the application, not because it contravened any specific provisions of the township's zoning or subdivision ordinance, but because it violated restrictions in the deed.

Our scope of review, when the common pleas court has received no evidence, is limited to ascertainment of whether the Board abused its discretion or committed

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 337]

    an error of law. Horst v. Derry Township Board of Supervisors, 21 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 556, 347 A.2d 507 (1975). Our examination of this exiguous*fn3 record leads us to reverse the decision below.

In its opinion, the Board refers to only two provisions of the Price Township Subdivision Ordinance -- Article 1, Section 300, entitled "Purpose",*fn4 and Article 4, "Design Standards and Required Improvements," which encompasses

     conditions favorable to the health, safety, and general welfare of the citizens and for the harmonious development of the Township . . . Nearby Developments must be coordinated with existing nearby developments or neighborhoods so that that area as a whole may be developed harmoniously. (Emphasis in original.)

This Court has previously declared that citation to materially identical language*fn5 in another subdivision

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 338]

    ordinance does not meet the requirements of Section 508(2) of the MPC.

In Goodman v. Board of Commissioners of the Township of Whitehall, 49 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 35, 41, 411 A.2d 838, 841 (1980), we said that such a provision

     provides no requirement or criterion by which the courts could review a finding of noncompliance with it. The idea of coordinating a subdivision so that the area is 'developed harmoniously' is as nebulous as the supporting provisions found insufficient in Harrisburg Fore Associates v. Board of Supervisors of Lower Paxton, 21 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 137, 344 A.2d 277 (1975) and Brauns v. Swarthmore Borough, 4 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 627, 288 A.2d 830 (1972).

In pointing out that such an amorphous criterion as "harmonious development" would render nugatory the judicial doctrine that a subdivision plan must be approved if it complies with applicable regulations, the Goodman Court went on to order approval of the preliminary plan, as we do here.

Turning to appellants' second contention, we recognize, as did the lower court, that an application for a subdivision plan which conforms to all the technical requirements of relevant ordinances cannot be denied based on deed restrictions.*fn6 Cf. Michener Appeal, 382 Pa. 401, 115 A.2d 367 (1955).

Order

And Now, the 22nd day of December, 1981, the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County,

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 339]

    dated March 5, 1981, entered to No. 199, October Term, 1978, is reversed. These proceedings are hereby remanded with the instruction that approval of the subdivision application for Lot 405, Plotting II, Snow Hill Falls, Price Township, be granted.

Disposition

Reversed and remanded.


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