Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County in the case of In Re: Appeal of Newtown Racquetball Associates from the Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board, No. 79-8001-09-5, and In Re: Appeal by Newtown Racquetball Associates of Preliminary Approval by the Board of Supervisors of Newtown Township of the Preliminary Plan of Newtown Park and Swimming Club, Inc., to the Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board, No. 80-1007-09-5.
Martin J. King, Crodes, King & Associates, P.C., for appellant.
E. Dillwyn Darlington, for appellees, Newtown Park & Swimming Club, Inc. and First National Bank & Trust Company of Newtown.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Williams, Jr. and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr. President Judge Crumlish, Jr. concurs in the result only.
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Newtown Racquetball Associates (Racquetball) has filed two appeals from two zoning orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County. By the first order, the trial court affirmed a decision of the Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board (Zoning Board) granting a special exception and three variances to the First National Bank and Trust Company of Newtown (Bank). The trial court's second order upheld the preliminary approval of a preliminary land
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development plan that had been submitted by the Newtown Park and Swimming Club, Inc. (Swimming Club).
In the first of Racquetball's appeals, No. 1602 C.D. 1981, the appellant challenges the grant of the variances to the Bank, asserting, inter alia, that the Bank had not met its burden of proving an unnecessary hardship. By its second appeal, No. 1603 C.D. 1981, Racquetball seeks to invalidate the approval of the Swimming Club's preliminary land development plan. We consolidated the two appeals.
In 1966, the Bank purchased a parcel of land on Newtown-Yardley Road in Newtown Township, Bucks County. The parcel had a frontage of 150 feet, a depth of 267.33 feet, and an area of 40,099 square feet. The Bank subsequently used the site for the erection of a branch office, which was opened for business in May of 1967. At the time the Bank purchased the site, and at the time the branch office was opened, the zoning for the property was commercial. However, sometime between the opening of the branch office and the year 1976, the zoning was changed to "R-2 Residential." As a result, the Bank's branch office became a nonconforming use.
In 1976, the Bank sought to expand the branch office "to enable it to remain a full service bank." Accordingly, the Bank applied to the Zoning Board for a special exception to allow the expansion of a nonconforming use. Also requested were three variances from the restrictions of the zoning ordinance: (a) to permit expansion of the nonconforming use by 49% instead of the 25% allowed by the ordinance; (b) to permit a front yard set-back of only 24 feet, whereas the ordinance required at least 75 feet; and (c) to permit lot coverage of 45.7% rather than the 15% allowed
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by the ordinance.*fn1 The Bank's application met no opposition; and, in November 1976, the Zoning Board granted the special exception and the three variances. However, the Zoning Board imposed certain conditions on the grant. The two primary conditions concerned the matter of access to the branch office from the public roadway, and the matter of storm water drainage along the roadway in front of the office. The Bank, apparently because it was dissatisfied with the traffic-flow plan devised by Township authorities, never did avail itself of the special exception and variances granted in 1976.
The Swimming Club owns a 40-acre tract of land that abuts the Bank's branch office site on three sides. In 1977, one Tony Boccardo, who was then the sole owner of the Club, applied to the Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board for a special exception to create an expanded recreation complex on the 40-acre tract. The Club already had existing swimming facilities. Its expansion plans included indoor and outdoor tennis courts, racquetball courts, a golf course, and a golf ...