Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County in the case of White Advertising Metro, Inc. and Robert and Mary Louise Klinger v. The Zoning Hearing Board of Susquehanna Township, No. 345 S 1979.
Edward C. First, Jr., with him Mary Jane Forbes, McNees, Wallace and Nurick, for appellants.
Robert L. Knupp, Graf, Knupp and Andrews, P.C., for appellee.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Williams, Jr. and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle. President Judge Crumlish concurs in the result only.
[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 310]
This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County denying the appeal of White Advertising Metro, Inc. (White) from a decision of the Susquehanna Township Board of Commissioners (Board) which denied White's application for conditional use permits to construct three outdoor advertising signs in the Township. We reverse.
On or about August 22, 1978, White filed an application with the Zoning Officer of Susquehanna Township for a conditional use permit to erect outdoor advertising signs on land leased from Conrail Corporation and located along U.S. Route 22/322, a four lane divided highway also known as the River Relief Route. The land in question is within an area zoned as a General Industrial District. In accordance with the provisions of the Susquehanna Township Zoning Ordinance (Zoning Ordinance), the application was forwarded to the Planning Commission for review. The Planning Commission approved the application and forwarded it with their recommendation to the Board of Commissioners. The Board denied the application but did not issue written findings of fact or reasons for the determination. White appealed to the Susquehanna Township Zoning Hearing Board (Zoning Hearing Board) challenging the constitutionality of the Zoning Ordinance provisions requiring conditional use permits for outdoor advertising signs. The Zoning Hearing Board rejected the challenge and White appealed to the Court of Common Pleas, reiterating the constitutional challenge and alleging also
[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 311]
that the Board violated the Local Agency Law*fn1 in failing to issue its determination in written form.*fn2 On July 2, 1979, the Court of Common Pleas upheld the constitutionality of the Zoning Ordinance but remanded the case to the Board for issuance of a written opinion and accompanying explanation for the denial of the application. The Board held another public hearing and permitted White to submit additional information and evidence in support of his application. The Board again denied White's application and issued a written adjudication. White appealed again to the Court of Common Pleas alleging that the findings of the Board were not supported by substantial evidence and were clearly erroneous as a matter of law. The Court, per curiam, denied White's appeal.
[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 312]
The scope of our review in zoning cases where the Court of Common Pleas does not take additional evidence on appeal is well settled. We must determine whether the Board abused its discretion or committed error of law and whether the Board's findings of fact are supported by substantial competent evidence. Lake Adventure, Inc. v. Zoning Hearing Board of Dingman Township, 64 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 551, 440 A.2d 1284 (1983);*fn3 Susquehanna Township Board Page 312} of Commissioners v. Hardee's Foods Systems, Inc., 59 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 479, 430 A.2d 367 (1981); Bruni v. Zoning Hearing Board of Plymouth Township, 52 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 526, 416 A.2d 111 (1980); Chester County Mall v. Board of Supervisors of West Goshen Township, 44 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 119, 402 A.2d 1160 (1979); Heck v. Zoning Hearing Board for Harvey's Lake Borough, 39 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 570, 397 A.2d 15 (1979); Soble Construction Co. v. Zoning Board, 16 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 599, 329 A.2d 912 (1974). White urges that the Board's denial of its conditional use permits was an abuse of discretion and was not supported by the evidence adduced at the public hearing. We agree.
Commercial signs are authorized by Section 202 of the Zoning Ordinance as a conditional use in a General Industrial District.*fn4 In addition, we note that Section 229 of the Zoning Ordinance, which contains the general provisions applicable to signs and commercial signs, provide, inter alia, that signs be properly maintained,*fn5 pose no safety hazard or nuisance to neighbors through illumination,*fn6 and be limited in size and
[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 313]
location along the roadway.*fn7 The evidence is uncontroverted that White's proposed signs meet the specifications in Section 229.*fn8 The dispute of the parties focuses on whether White has satisfied the standards and criteria necessary to qualify as a conditional use.
Section 603 of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, Act of July 31, 1968, P.L. 805, as amended, 53 P.S. § 10603 provides that zoning ordinances enacted by local governing bodies may contain "[p]rovisions for conditional uses to be allowed or denied by the governing body after recommendations by the planning agency, pursuant to express standards and criteria set forth in the ordinance." In Section 262 C of the Zoning Ordinance we find the standards and criteria applicable in this case:
C. Conditional Uses. Applications for any conditional uses permitted by this ordinance will be made to the Zoning Officer who shall refer such applications to the Township Planning Commission chairman seven (7) days prior to the Planning ...