Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County in the case of Township of Falls v. Zoning Hearing Board of Falls Township v. Golden Cradle Home, Inc. v. Jerry F. Naples and Marie M. Naples, No. 83-01492.
Samuel M. Snipes, with him, Thomas A. DiMaggio, for appellant.
No appearance for appellees.
Judges Craig and Palladino, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.
[ 91 Pa. Commw. Page 553]
The Township of Falls appeals an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County which affirmed the township zoning hearing board's grant of a variance to use property located in a single-family residential zone*fn1 for a maternity home.
The property consists of 4.64 acres of land, an eighteen-room residence, a carriage house, a cottage and a swimming pool. The property is surrounded primarily by other single-family residences erected on one-quarter-acre lots and valued at no more than $70,000.*fn2
We must determine whether the board properly concluded that the uniqueness of that property, attributable to its large size and its location in a neighborhood of much smaller houses and lots, was sufficient under the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC),*fn3 to establish unnecessary hardship warranting the issuance of a variance.
[ 91 Pa. Commw. Page 554]
Jerry and Marie Naples purchased the property in 1967 for $50,000. They have expended approximately $150,000 on renovation of the property, and continue to occupy it as a single-family residence. In 1979, when most of their seven children had grown and moved from the family home, the owners listed the property for sale with a real estate broker, William Veitch. They placed an asking price of $350,000 on the property, and later reduced it to $335,000. Despite the broker's diligent promotion, the owners received only one offer*fn4 during the forty-three months that the property was on the market before they entered an agreement with Golden Cradle Home, Inc. to sell the property for $300,000. That agreement was conditioned on Golden Cradle obtaining a variance to use the property as a maternity home for young pregnant women who planned to place their babies for adoption.*fn5
The common pleas court upheld the zoning hearing board's grant of a variance, and this appeal followed.
Because the common pleas court took no additional evidence, our scope of review is limited to determining whether the board abused its discretion or committed an error of law, and we cannot disturb the board's findings if they are supported by substantial evidence. ...