Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Venango County in case of Visionquest National, Ltd. v. City of Franklin Zoning Board of Adjustment and City of Franklin, No. 74-1982.
John P. Fonzo, Wasson, Egan & Wilson, for appellants.
David P. Brandt, for appellee.
Judges Rogers, Craig and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 74 Pa. Commw. Page 271]
The Common Pleas Court of Venango County held that the zoning ordinance of the City of Franklin was invalid as effecting an unconstitutional exclusion of the use of property for group homes for troubled adolescents and ordered the issuance of an occupancy permit to the appellee, Visionquest National, Ltd. The city and neighbors of the proposed house who, intervening below, objected to its establishment have appealed.
Visionquest entered into an agreement to purchase a residence in the City of Franklin and applied to the zoning hearing board for a special exception or a variance or an interpretation of the city's zoning ordinance which would allow it to operate the group home for troubled adolescents. The home would accommodate up to eight youths supervised by live-in professional houseparents and youth counselors. Visionquest seems to be a proprietary enterprise for profit engaged in providing residential care for youths, some of whom are committed by the courts. The residence proposed
[ 74 Pa. Commw. Page 272]
for this use in this case is located in the city's R-3 residential zoning district and as well in its TRC transitional residential-commercial zoning district.
Visionquest's request for interpretation was worded as follows:
[A]n interpretation of the Codified Ordinances of the City of Franklin, Part Thirteen, Title One, Articles 1311 and 1315. . . . Though the Codified Ordinances of the City of Franklin, Part Thirteen does not define group home as a permitted use within any district, we must assume this is not intended to unconstitutionally exclude such a use but rather because the City did not anticipate the development of group homes in this area. As the R-3 or TRC Districts do provide for the least restrictive use of a residential district, it does appear, however, that our intended use would be consistent with the purpose and permitted uses within these districts.
At the hearing conducted by the zoning hearing board, a witness for Visionquest, described as its director, testified concerning the function and intended methods of operating its proposed group home. The intervening neighbors testified in opposition to the application. At the end of the hearing counsel for neighbors stated:
I would like to add something just to preserve the record in the event of appeal. On behalf of my clients, I would like to assert that the application is defective if it does attempt to raise the constitutional issue as to whether or not a group home has to be included in the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Franklin -- a group detention home. We will not offer a defense for ...