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RAYMOND H. JOHNSON v. ZONING HEARING BOARD RICHLAND TOWNSHIP (02/07/86)

decided: February 7, 1986.

RAYMOND H. JOHNSON, ET AL., APPELLANTS
v.
THE ZONING HEARING BOARD OF RICHLAND TOWNSHIP, CAMBRIA COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County in case of Raymond H. Johnson, et ux., et al. v. The Zoning Hearing Board of Richland Township, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, and John Sroka/Leisure Life, Inc., No. 1982-1556, Argument No. 5058.

COUNSEL

Richard J. Russell, for appellants.

Michael W. Sahlaney, for appellee.

Judges Craig and Palladino, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.

Author: Palladino

[ 95 Pa. Commw. Page 83]

This is an appeal*fn1 from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County which affirmed, without the taking of additional evidence, the grant of a dimensional variance by the Richland Township Zoning Board of Adjustment (Board). For the reasons which follow, we reverse.

John Sroko (Appellee) applied for a variance to build a six-story, 92-unit economy motel on a 4.68 acre plot of land in Richland Township, Cambria County. The area is zoned C-2, Commercial, in which a motel is a permitted use, but Section 602 of the Township's Zoning Ordinance restricts the maximum height of buildings in a C-2 zone to two stories or thirty-five (35) feet.

[ 95 Pa. Commw. Page 84]

Following several hearings, the Board made the following findings of fact. The property possesses a unique topography because its slope ranges from thirteen percent to twenty-three percent, and averages sixteen percent. This slope creates storm water drainage problems for the construction of any permitted structure. The storm water drainage problems and the severe slope of the tract make the construction of an economically feasible two-story permitted structure virtually impossible, although theoretically physically possible, and therefore greatly distresses the value of the subject tract.

The Board concluded, based on the above findings, that Appellee was entitled to a variance for a six-story, 82 unit motel not more than sixty (60) feet in height.*fn2 Appellants appealed to the Court of Common Pleas, which affirmed the grant of the variance, and this appeal followed.

Our scope of review, where the trial court has taken no additional evidence, is to determine whether the findings of the Board are supported by substantial evidence, and whether the Board abused its discretion or committed an error of law in granting the variance. Rennerdale Volunteer Fire Department v. Zoning Hearing Board of Collier Township, 90 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 635, 496 A.2d 431 (1985).

In order to establish entitlement to a zoning variance, the applicant must show: that the ordinance imposes unnecessary hardship on the property; that the hardship stems from unique physical characteristics of the property; that the hardship is not ...


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