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decided: December 31, 1984.


Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of York County in the case of Llewellyn's Mobile Home Court, Inc. v. Springfield Township Zoning Hearing Board, No. 83-S-2383.


Glenn C. Vaughn, Carn, Vaughn & Perry, for appellant.

Gordon A. Roe, Kain, Brown & Roberts, for appellee, Springfield Township Zoning Hearing Board.

William H. Poole, Jr., for intervenor, Harry L. McNeal, Jr.

Judges MacPhail, Barry and Colins, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.

Author: Macphail

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 568]

Llewellyn's Mobile Home Court, Inc. (Appellant) appeals here from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of York County which affirmed the decision of the Springfield Township Zoning Hearing Board (Board) denying Appellant's request for permission

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 569]

    to expand its mobile home park by an additional twenty units.*fn1 We will affirm.

The common pleas court did not receive any additional evidence, therefore, this Court must determine whether the Board made an error of law or committed an abuse of discretion in reaching its decision. Sullivan v. Zoning Board of Adjustment, 83 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 228, 478 A.2d 912 (1984).

The Board found that there was no zoning ordinance in existence in Springfield Township prior to August 6, 1968. Following the adoption of a zoning ordinance on that date, the Springfield Township Zoning Officer issued a certificate of nonconformance to John T. Hall, Jr. on October 19, 1968.*fn2 Mr. Hall was the predecessor owner of the subject tract of land. The area in which the land is located was zoned agricultural, so that use of the land for a mobile home park was nonconforming.

The certificate of nonconformance described the property dimensions, referred to an accompanying plan, and listed the type of nonconformity as a mobile home park which had existed prior to August 6, 1968. The Board determined that eight mobile home lots existed in the park in 1968. The plan referred to on the certificate of nonconformance showed twenty-eight mobile home lots, using the entire property as a mobile home park. Nevertheless, at no time were there twenty-eight lots in use. The Board found that some activities occurred on the vacant area of the property which suggested an intent to locate the twenty additional lots proposed by the plan.

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 570]

Art. IX, § 9.36 of the Ordinance required all owners of lots occupied by a nonconforming use to obtain a certificate of nonconformance. The Board found that Mr. Hall complied with this requirement, and that the 1977 certificate described the use as a mobile home park which had existed prior to August 6, 1968 and referred to the previous drawing showing twenty-eight mobile home lots.

Most significantly, the Board found that the twenty undeveloped lots*fn3 have none of the improvements necessary for the erection of mobile homes upon them; therefore, from 1968 until the time of the hearing a mobile home park which contained eight units existed on the tract of land.

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 571]

Appellant relies on the 1968 and 1977 certificates of nonconformance as establishing a right to a nonconforming mobile home park containing twenty-eight mobile home lots. We cannot agree. The certificates insure the owner of the property, now Appellant, the right to continue the nonconforming use in existence when the ordinances were enacted.*fn4 Under Pennsylvania law, an owner can establish a nonconforming use by showing by objective evidence that the land was devoted to the use at the time the ordinance was enacted; a statement of the owner's intent is inadequate to establish the nonconforming use. 2 R. Ryan, Pennsylvania Zoning Law and Practice § 7.2.3 (1981). The landowner has the burden of establishing that the nonconforming use existed. Little v. Zoning Hearing Page 571} Board of Abington Township, 24 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 490, 357 A.2d 266 (1976).

The plans which accompany the two certificates of nonconformance are evidence merely of the landowner's intention to install twenty-eight mobile home lots on the property. The certificates can only grant such nonconforming use as existed at the time of their issuance. The Board committed no error in finding that the nonconforming mobile home park contains only eight units. Appellant may continue the use of the eight unit mobile home park.

Art. IX, § 9.36 of the Ordinance provides in pertinent part that a certificate of nonconformance "shall insure such owners [of lots occupied by a nonconforming use] the right to continue a nonconforming use within the regulations prescribed herein." (Emphasis added.) The certificate cannot grant Appellant the right to continue something which was never begun. Insofar as either certificate may appear to certify all twenty-eight lots shown on the plans, this is legal error and is not conclusive on the issue of the nature and extent of the nonconforming use.*fn5 The nonconforming use for which the certificates were issued was a mobile home park containing eight individual lots.

Appellant alternatively sought a variance, assuming that the nonconforming use was limited to the eight lots, on the basis that the agricultural uses, for which the portion of the property not occupied by the eight lots is suited, are not compatible with the mobile

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 572]

    home park. Appellant is not entitled to an expansion as of right of the nonconforming use over property which has not been used to further the nonconforming purpose. Jenkintown Towing Service v. Zoning Hearing Board of Upper Moreland Township, 67 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 183, 446 A.2d 716 (1982). Therefore, the usual criteria for the grant of a variance must be met. Appellant must prove that the zoning ordinance burdens its property with a unique and unnecessary hardship and that grant of the variance would not have an adverse effect upon the public health, safety or welfare. Ignelzi v. Zoning Board of Adjustment of the City of Pittsburgh, 61 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 101, 104, 433 A.2d 158, 160 (1981). Because a variance should be granted in exceptional cases only, Appellant's burden of proof is heavy. Kensington South Neighborhood Advisory Council v. Zoning Board of Adjustment of Philadelphia, 80 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 546, 549, 471 A.2d 1317, 1319 (1984).

The Board did not err as a matter of law in finding that Appellant failed to meet this burden. The record shows that the property could be used for purposes permitted by the ordinance, and the primary hardship alleged was financial. This will not justify the grant of a variance.*fn6 See Vitale v. Zoning Hearing Board of Upper Darby Township, 63 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 604, 609, 438 A.2d 1016, 1019 (1982). Furthermore, as noted above, the Board granted an extension of four additional mobile home lots in accordance with the provisions of art. IX, § 9.32 of the ordinance

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 573]

    which further weakens Appellant's averment of hardship.

Accordingly, we will affirm the decision of the Court of Common Pleas of York County.


The order of the Court of Common Pleas of York County, Civil Action -- Law No. 83-S-2383, dated February 14, 1984, is hereby affirmed.



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