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APPEAL CLAUDE DEBOTTON FROM DENIAL BY ZONING HEARING BOARD SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP HIS CHALLENGE TO VALIDITY ZONING ORDINANCE ETC. SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP (04/12/84)

decided: April 12, 1984.

IN RE: APPEAL OF CLAUDE DEBOTTON FROM THE DENIAL BY THE ZONING HEARING BOARD OF SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP OF HIS CHALLENGE TO THE VALIDITY OF THE ZONING ORDINANCE ETC. SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP, APPELLANT


Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County in case of In Re: Appeal of Claude deBotton from the denial by the Zoning Hearing Board of Springfield Township of his Application for Variance and/or Special Exception from the present zoning classification to use premises at Church Lane and Baltimore Pike, Springfield, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, for commercial stores and offices, Nos. 81-02416 and 81-10484.

COUNSEL

Donald H. Pugh, for appellant.

Michael Sklaroff, with him, Vincent J. LaBrasca and Thomas R. Eshelman, Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, and of counsel, Fronefield and DeFuria, for appellee.

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

Author: Blatt

[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 515]

Following the denial of a permit to develop a 9.722 acre parcel located at 950 Baltimore Pike in Springfield Township (Township) for commercial use, Claude deBotton (landowner) filed a petition with the Zoning Hearing Board of the Township (Board) seeking a "validity" variance and/or a special exception and, in the alternative, challenging the substantive validity of the Springfield Township Zoning Ordinance pursuant to Section 1004 of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC).*fn1

The Board denied the application for a "validity" variance on the ground that the landowner had failed to prove that the zoning ordinance deprived him of "any reasonable use of his land to such a degree that his land was confiscated". It dismissed the request for a special exception, holding that the ordinance contained no provision authorizing special exceptions. In

[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 516]

    a separate opinion, the Board also dismissed the landowner's constitutional challenges to the zoning ordinance. On appeal, the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County found that the Board abused its discretion, and it reversed the Board's decision, ordering that the requested variance be granted. The Township filed the present appeal.

Our scope of review where the court of common pleas has taken no additional evidence is limited to a determination of whether or not the Board committed a manifest abuse of discretion or an error of law. Marple Township Appeal, 440 Pa. 508, 269 A.2d 699 (1970). And, of course, where the Board's findings of fact are unsupported by substantial evidence, it has committed a manifest abuse of discretion. De Cristoforo v. Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment, 427 Pa. 150, 233 A.2d 561 (1967). Moreover, this court has repeatedly stated that substantial evidence consists of evidence which a reasonable man would accept to establish the fact in question. Snyder v. Railroad Borough, 59 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 385, 430 A.2d 339 (1981).

The Township argues that the court of common pleas exceeded its scope of review which, in this case, is identical to ours, Pyzdrowski v. Pittsburgh Board of Adjustment, 437 Pa. 481, 263 A.2d 426 (1970), when it weighed the evidence heard before the Board and reached a conclusion contrary to the one reached by the Board. And a careful reading of the court's opinion reveals that the court did in fact weigh the contradictory evidence offered by the parties at the Board hearings.*fn2 We are, therefore, constrained to agree

[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 517]

    with the Township that the court did exceed its scope of review.

As to the Board's decision, it found that the landowner's property is located in an area zoned special-use (S-U) which, under the ordinance, is restricted to the following uses:

A. General office building, bank, financial institution or theater designed as a single architectural project or unit, following review and recommendations by the Planning Commission and approval by the Board of Commissioners.

B. Laboratory (scientific or industrial research and development, testing, experimental), provided that:

1. No processing shall be permitted except insofar as such processing is incidental to research and development, process testing or operation ...


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