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FRANK J. KADI ET AL. v. ZONING HEARING BOARD TOWNSHIP LYNN. ONTELAUNEE ROD AND GUN CLUB (04/07/83)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: April 7, 1983.

FRANK J. KADI ET AL.
v.
ZONING HEARING BOARD OF THE TOWNSHIP OF LYNN. ONTELAUNEE ROD AND GUN CLUB, APPELLANT

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County in case of Frank J. Kadi, George E. Schlegel and Raymond Hoving v. Zoning Hearing Board of the Township of Lynn, No. 81-C-1090.

COUNSEL

Gerald M. Barr, Steckel & Stopp, for appellant.

No appearance for appellee.

Judges Blatt, Williams, Jr. and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 296]

The Ontelaunee Rod and Gun Club (Club) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County which reversed the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board of Lynn Township (Board) which had granted the Club a special exception.

The Club, which was organized in 1937, owns 62 acres of land utilized for trapshooting and other outdoor

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 297]

    recreational activities, including archery, fishing, hunting, picnics and family outings. It filed an application with the Board seeking a special exception permitting it to install outdoor illumination for two of its eight trap houses. This application was approved on September 19, 1979, by a vote of two to one. The appellees, who are the objectors*fn1 to the Club's application, then filed an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, alleging that the Board had been prejudiced inasmuch as one of its members was a member of the Club and had failed to disqualify himself from participating in the Board's hearing and adjudication. The court reversed and remanded the Board's order, and another hearing was subsequently held before a new Board. On March 2, 1981, this Board, by a three to zero vote, once again found in favor of the Club and granted the special exception. The objectors once more appealed to the court of common pleas, which found that the Board had abused its discretion by failing to find a nuisance in fact.

Where, as here, the trial court has taken no additional evidence, the scope of our review is determining whether or not the Board committed an abuse of discretion or an error of law.*fn2 Waber v. Zoning Board of Adjustment, 41 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 565, 400 A.2d 893 (1979). And it is well-settled that, in reviewing

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 298]

    the decisions of the Board, a court should not act as a super zoning board of adjustment and impose its own preference on local municipalities. Eighteenth & Rittenhouse Associates v. Zoning Board of Adjustment, 26 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 554, 364 A.2d 973 (1976). In this case, however, it appears that the trial court has attempted to substitute its own findings and conclusions for those of the Board, contrary to the law. See B & B Shoe Products Co. v. Zoning Hearing Board, 28 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 475, 368 A.2d 1332 (1977).

Among its 23 detailed and comprehensive findings of fact, the Board here found that the proposed use of lights for trapshooting and the noise generated by the additional shooting time will not cause additional annoyance or discomfort to the adjoining property owners.*fn3 This finding has ample support in the record,*fn4 especially when considered in the very limited context of the Board's order, which subjected the approval to the following conditions and limitations:

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 2991]

. That the poles and lights will be constructed, used and maintained so that such lighting will not shine directly upon any abutting property or upon the public street.

2. That the use of lights for evening and night trap shooting [sic] shall be limited as follows:

(a) One night during the week which shall not extend beyond 10:00 P.M.;

(b) On a weekend, the lights for trap shooting [sic] shall be used only when there is a major shoot in a league gun club event and due to the malfunction of equipment in the course of the shoot when it is necessary to use lights in order to complete the competition, which in any event shall not extend beyond 8:00 P.M.*fn5

One of the main concerns expressed by the objectors is their fear that the use of lights will permit the extension of trapshooting, which will be especially harmful in the summertime when many windows in the neighborhood are left open. The record indicates, however, that the extended sunlight during daylight saving time, even without the use of lights, enables shooting until approximately 9:00 P.M. The use of illumination, therefore, will increase the shooting time by approximately one hour per week, during the summer,*fn6 which we cannot agree would be a nuisance in

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 300]

    fact. Furthermore, it is evident from the Board's order that it specifically considered the fact that the proposed illumination will only affect two of the eight trap houses, and thus will allow a total of only 10 shooters to utilize the range at any one time while the lights are being used.

After a close review of the record, we believe that the Board did consider all of the evidence presented, and, we can find no abuse of discretion or error of law. We will, therefore, reverse the order of the trial court and reinstate the order of the Board granting the Club's request for a special exception, subject, of course, to the conditions imposed by the Board in its order.

Order

And Now, this 7th day of April, 1983, the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County in the above-captioned matter is hereby reversed and the order of the Zoning Hearing Board of the Township of Lynn dated March 2, 1981 is hereby reinstated.

Disposition

Reversed. Board decision reinstated.


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