Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County in case of In Re: Appeal of Theresa McGinnis from the Decision of the Langhorne Manor Borough Zoning Hearing Board, No. 80-7453-14.
Mindy M. Brook, Moskowitz, Zamparelli & Weiss, P.C., for Theresa McGinnis.
Thomas J. Profy, III, Begley, Carlin & Mandio, for Langhorne Manor Borough.
Judges Rogers, Blatt and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
In these cross appeals, Theresa McGinnis and the Borough of Langhorne Manor seek review of an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County reversing the decision of the Langhorne Manor Zoning Hearing Board that Ms. McGinnis' use of her property as a group home for elderly persons constituted a violation of the Borough's Zoning Ordinance.
The facts, adduced during four lengthy hearings of the board conducted between January and April, 1980, are largely undisputed. In late June, 1979, Ms. McGinnis purchased a residentially zoned property and related improvements including a large single-family residence located at 401 Station Avenue in Langhorne Manor Borough. Shortly thereafter she began occupancy of the residence together with five elderly persons only one of whom is related to Ms. McGinnis and none of whom are otherwise related to each other.*fn1 The particular circumstances of the living arrangement of these persons will be described at a later point in this opinion. Within the RA-Residential zoning district here at issue single-family detached homes, religious uses, non-profit educational uses, public recreational uses, and certain accessory and temporary uses are permitted by right. Schools operated for profit, nursing homes, and private recreational uses are prohibited. Section 215 of the zoning ordinance defines the term "family," permitted to occupy a single-family dwelling, as follows:
One or more persons related by blood, marriage or adoption, and in addition, domestic servants or gratuitous guests thereof; or a group of not more than five persons who need not be so related, and in addition, domestic servants or gratuitous guests thereof, who are living together in a single non-profit dwelling unit
and maintaining a common household with single cooking facilities. A roomer, boarder or lodger shall not be considered a member of the family.
On July 19, 1979, Mr. Max Einenkel, zoning officer and building inspector for the Borough, in response to the complaints of neighbors, who expressed then and at the hearings concern that an unlawful commercial use in the neighborhood would have an adverse effect on surrounding property values, attempted to deliver to Ms. McGinnis at her newly acquired home a copy of a letter written by Thomas J. Profy, III, Esquire, the Borough's solicitor, the contents of which was as follows:
401 Station Avenue, Langhorne Manor Borough is situate in an RA zoning district in which nursing homes, convalescent homes and related-type facilities are not permitted.
Borough Council for which I am Solicitor has been contacted by various persons within the community who are under the impression that you intend to utilize the subject premises as a nursing home, convalescent home or related-type facilities. It may well be that you do not so intend to use the property but to avoid confusion and hardship upon you if you so utilize the premises and were forced to cease and desist, Borough Council has directed that I bring to your attention the zoning classification of the property and aforesaid limitation upon the use thereof.
Mr. Einenkel was refused entry to the house by Ms. McGinnis' sister and was told to leave the letter described above outside where, he was told, it would be retrieved after his departure. Ms. ...