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decided: July 15, 1985.


Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County in case of William J. Mulligan v. Zoning Board of Adjustment of East Norriton Township, No. 81-06301.


William J. Moran, III, for appellant.

Thomas M. Delricci, with him, Jeremiah J. Cardamone and David R. Weyl, Timoney, Knox, Hasson & Weand, for appellee.

Judges MacPhail, Doyle and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.

Author: Doyle

[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 395]

William J. Mulligan (Appellant) appeals from the order of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas which affirmed the decision of the East Norriton Township Zoning Hearing Board (Board) denying Appellant's request for a special exception.

Appellant is the owner and occupant of a two-story house and garage located in a commercial district on Swede Street, East Norriton Township. On October 31, 1980, Appellant applied to the Board to use his property as an automobile sales and repair shop under Section 1201(10) of the East Norriton Township Zoning Ordinance (Ordinance), which permits such uses in commercial districts only when authorized as a special exception.*fn1 Appellant's application included

[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 396]

    a proposed forty foot extension to the existing garage, which resulted in a side yard setback of two feet, instead of the sixty feet required under Section 1202(D) of the Ordinance.*fn2

After a hearing, the Board denied the special exception, concluding that Appellant's proposed use was contrary to the health, safety and welfare of the community. The Board noted that although a variance had not been requested, one was required to accommodate Appellant's proposed garage extension. The Board concluded that Appellant had not shown the requisite hardship necessary for the granting of a variance, nor had he shown that the proposed extension would be the minimum variance necessary. The court of common pleas affirmed the decision of the Board without taking additional evidence, and this appeal followed.*fn3

Appellant first argues that there was insufficient evidence that the proposed use would be contrary to the health, safety, and welfare of the community. Usually, once an applicant establishes that he meets the specific requirements for a special exception under a zoning ordinance, the burden is upon protestors to prove that the proposed use will have an adverse effect on the general public. Sunnyside Garage Appeal, 84 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 286, 479 A.2d 47 (1984). An ordinance may, however, shift this burden

[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 397]

    by specific language to that effect. Derr Flooring Co., Inc. v. Whitemarsh Township Zoning Board of Adjustment, 4 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 341, 285 A.2d 538 (1971). In this case Section 2007 of the Ordinance places upon the applicant the burden to prove both that the use is one which is permitted by special exception and that the proposed use will not adversely affect the general public.

We have held that where an ordinance attempts to place the burden upon the applicant to prove compliance with both specific and general requirements of the ordinance, the protestors nonetheless retain the burden of going forward with evidence as to the non-compliance with general conditions. Bray v. Zoning Board of Adjustment, 48 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 523, 529, 410 A.2d 909, 912 (1980); Derr at 347-48, 285 A.2d at 542. Thus, once an applicant has met the burden of proving compliance with all of the specific conditions and requirements of the ordinance, he has met his initial burden of proof. It is only when the protestors thereafter raise specific issues concerning the health, safety and general welfare that the burden continues to be with the applicant to meet these objections. Bray at 531, 410 A.2d at 913.

In the present case the record does give some indication that East Norriton Township, the sole protestor, failed to meet its burden of going forward with evidence concerning the proposed use's adverse effect on the general public. We conclude, however, that such evidence was unnecessary since it is clear that the Appellant did not meet his initial burden of proving compliance with the specific conditions of the Ordinance.

Appellant's initial burden of proof required proof not only that the proposed use was of the type permitted by the special exception, but also that the proposed

[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 398]

    use complied with the other Ordinance requirements applicable to all commercial uses, e.g., set-backs, lot size, and parking requirements. Bray at 526-27, 410 A.2d at 911. See Overbrook Farms Club v. Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment, 45 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 96, 100-01, 405 A.2d 580, 582-83 (1979). Appellant's proposed use included a two-foot side yard which was in violation of the side yard requirements applicable to all uses in a commercial district. Without a variance from this requirement, Appellant could not comply with the specific requirements of the special exception, and thus failed to meet his burden in this regard.

Although Appellant did not request a variance before the Board, he now contends that the Board erred in denying him a variance inasmuch as he has been precluded from any reasonable use of his property. In order to establish the right to a zoning variance, a landowner must show that the effect of the zoning ordinance is to burden his property with an unnecessary hardship unique to the property, that the grant of the variance will have no adverse impact on the public health, safety, and welfare, and, where relevant, that the hardship is not self-inflicted and that the variance sought is the minimum variance that will afford relief. Section 912 of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code,*fn4 53 P.S. 10912; Serban Appeal, 84 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 558, 480 A.2d 362 (1984). With regard to the side yard setback requirement, Appellant notes that his property is only fifty feet wide, and thus he cannot possibly comply with the sixty-foot side yard requirement of the Ordinance. Although this is an uncontestable fact, we must agree with the Board that Appellant submitted no evidence

[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 399]

    to establish that the proposed two-foot side yard constituted the minimum variance which would afford relief. Thus, although the granting of some form of dimensional variance may well be necessary for the reasonable use of this property, the Board did not err in denying this particular proposal.*fn5

For these reasons we affirm the decision of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas which upheld the Board's denial of the special exception.


Now, July 15, 1985, the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, No. 81-06301, dated August 10, 1982, is hereby affirmed.



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