Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County in case of William Gorton and Ronwhen Gorton v. Silver Lake Township and Silver Lake Planning Commissioner, No. 1981 -- 1212 C.P., In Equity.
William Gorton, with him, Ronwhen Gorton, appellants, for themselves.
Frederick J. Meagher, Hester & Meagher, for appellees.
Judges Rogers, MacPhail and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
The appellants, William Gorton and Ronwhen Gorton, acting pro se, have appealed a final order of the Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County denying their application for an order declaring their entitlement to a set-back variance and to approval of their proposed land subdivision.
The appellants owned a residence on a twenty-acre tract of land in Silver Lake Township. In 1979, they commenced the construction of a second residence on the property and of a sewage disposal system without leave of any public authority. Silver Lake Township officials notified the appellants that their undertaking required approval of the township Planning Commission as being in conformity to the township Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance and that the new residence encroached on a set-back requirement of the ordinance. On February 12, 1980, the appellants submitted an application for subdivision approval, a preliminary sketch plan of a proposed subdivision and a filing fee. These items were returned to the appellants by the township's land use administrator due to irregularities in the sketch plan and the general incompleteness of the application.
The township subdivision regulations define a minor subdivision application as one laying out lots but not requiring new municipal facilities, and a major subdivision application as one including the creation of new streets or the extension of municipal facilities. The township land use administrator concluded, based on the information available to him, that the appellants
were required to file both a minor and major subdivision application. On July 15, 1980, the appellants submitted, without the filing fee, a minor subdivision application requesting approval of the division of land into a number of lots and a major subdivision application with plats requesting approval for the addition of a second residence. By letter dated July 18, 1980, the township land use administrator returned both forms and plats to the appellants, explaining that the second page of the major subdivision form was missing, and that the major subdivision application and accompanying plats lacked much of the information required to be furnished by the ordinance. By the same communication, the land use administrator suggested that the appellants meet with him to review the application procedure with them. In letters sent August 8, August 22 and September 22, 1980, the land use administrator gave the appellants specific instructions for a proper application based on the ordinance. The appellants filed no further applications. On August 4, 1981, they commenced these proceedings based on Section 508 of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), Act of July 31, 1968, P.L. 805, as amended, 53 P.S. § 10508, claiming that the planning agency's failure to render a decision and communicate it to them within ninety days of receipt of their application sent July 15, 1980 constituted a deemed approval of the applications. Section 508(3) reads pertinently:
All applications for approval of a plat . . . whether preliminary or final, shall be acted upon by the governing body or the planning agency within such time limits as may be fixed in the subdivision and land development ordinance but the governing body or the planning agency shall render its decision and communicate
it to the applicant not later than ninety days after such ...