Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County in the case of Appeal of Gulf Oil Corporation from the Decision of Worcester Township Zoning Hearing Board, No. 85-02704.
Philip R. Detwiler, Philip R. Detwiler & Associates, P.C., for appellant.
Jerome B. Nulty, for appellee.
Judges Craig and Palladino, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.
[ 101 Pa. Commw. Page 328]
In the present appeal, we must decide whether a provision of a township's zoning ordinance which restricts the hours of operation of gasoline service stations located in a commercial district is unconstitutionally discriminatory. The Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Judge William T. Nicholas presiding, held that such a provision was discriminatory and thus invalid. In view of the particular circumstances here, we affirm.
By appeal to the Worcester Township Zoning Hearing Board, the Gulf Oil Corporation challenged the validity of Article XI, section 1101(L) of the Worcester Township Zoning Ordinance of 1953, which requires gasoline service stations to close between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.*fn1 Gulf Oil has contended that,
[ 101 Pa. Commw. Page 329]
because this restriction does not apply to other businesses in commercial districts, the ordinance is arbitrary and discriminatory against service stations and therefore invalid.
The Worcester Township Zoning Hearing Board dismissed Gulf Oil's challenge, reasoning that the restriction imposed upon service stations was a valid exercise of the township's police power, "effectual in keeping the quiet, rural nature of the Township." The board also held that Gulf Oil lacked standing to challenge the ordinance because it was not a landowner as defined in the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code.*fn2
The Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County reversed the decision of the board. The court held that Gulf Oil did have standing to bring the challenge. The court, in addition, held that the board committed an error of law when it concluded that the pertinent provision of the ordinance was a valid exercise of the township's police power.
According to the board's findings, Worcester Township is a township of sixteen square miles and has a population of approximately 4,500 people. The property in question is located in a zoning district designated as a commercial district, one of three commercial districts located in the township. An existing Gulf service station is located at the northeast corner of Skippack Pike and Valley Forge Road (see Sketch # 1, accompanying this opinion). The Gulf station is ...