Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County in the case of Laszlo Toth v. City of Allentown Zoning Hearing Board and Harry C. Weil, III and Loretta L. Weil, No. 83-C-3527.
Ronald L. Clever, with him, Thomas F. Traud, Jr., Roberts, Traud & Corkery, for appellant.
Robert W. Brown, with him, Margo S. Wiener, Brown, Brown, Solt, Wiener & Krouse, for intervenor/appellees, Harry C. Weil, III and Loretta L. Weil.
Judges Rogers and Palladino, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 92 Pa. Commw. Page 594]
Laszlo Toth (appellant) has appealed from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County upholding the grant by the Zoning Hearing Board of the City of Allentown (board) of a variance to Harry C. Weil, III, and Loretta L. Weil (Weils) to enlarge a garage building which is nonconforming by reason of an inadequate set back and to use the garage for automobile repairs, a prohibited use in the city's R-M medium density residential zoning district.
The Weils' irregularly shaped three-quarters of an acre lot seems to have been located in a residential district since the first Allentown Zoning Ordinance was adopted possibly in the 1940's. The garage was constructed in 1957 for use as an automobile club. This use and its later use as a carpenter shop were allowed by the city's zoning authorities. The garage was also
[ 92 Pa. Commw. Page 595]
at one time used as a welding shop, whether with or without official permission not being revealed.
The Weils purchased the property in 1970 and, without official permission, began to rent to others as an automobile body shop. In 1974, the Weils began themselves to use the garage for automobile body repairs. They sought a variance in 1974, which was refused; but they continued to use the garage as a body repair shop. From 1974 through 1983 they tried without success to sell the property. The present application for a variance to conduct an engine repair, not body repair, shop and to enlarge the garage building was made in October, 1983.
At the board hearing, the Weils produced the testimony of a real estate broker who described his unavailing efforts during nine years to sell the property. The broker testified that he placed ninety advertisements for the property, that he spent over $500 for advertising, that he first listed the property for $35,000 and then reduced it to $25,000, and that no one made an offer for the property to be used as zoned. He further testified that no one was interested in the property because it was "an alley-type property" and had no water or sewer. The broker explained that it would be "totally unfeasible to erect anything of value" on the property since "you probably would never have a resale if you chose to do this," and stated that in his opinion, "the only use . . . would be the present use [as an automobile repair shop.]"
The board pertinently found that the lot could not be sold because it was bounded by alleys, not streets, had no water or sewer, and faced rear yard garages on two sides. The board further found that the lot was not suitable for residential purposes. In discussion, the board concluded that ...