Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.



decided: November 18, 1986.


Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County in the case of Richard D. Repko and Dianne Repko, his wife; Elizabeth Sweet; George Ray; Frank Mattucci and Marie Mattucci; Albert Dudreck and Joan Dudreck; John Petrarca and Laura Petrarca; Richard Pershing and Janet Pershing; Genevieve Zello; Florence Zello; Dennis Holsinger; Janet Melnik; Robert McQuillis and Rosemary McQuillis; Milly Moschetti; Margaret C. Frye; James Eisaman and Eva L. Eisaman; Henry Zello; Ann F. Bell; Louis Giovannini and Elinor Giovannini; Louise Dott; Peter Rinier and Julia Rinier; Larry B. Randolph; Primo Pidutti and Marie Pidutti; Henry Trice and Dolly Trice; Ann McKary and Marion Trice v. The Zoning Hearing Board of the City of Greensburg, No. 4820 of 1984.


Thomas J. Godlewski, for appellants.

John K. Sweeney, with him, Raymond J. Hoehler, for appellee.

Vincent J. Quatrini, Jr., for amicus curiae, Women's Services of Westmoreland County, Inc.

Judges Craig and Doyle, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 273]

Richard and Dianne Repko and other neighboring residents (objectors) appeal an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County which affirmed a decision of the Greensburg Zoning Hearing Board granting Women's Services of Westmoreland County (Women's Services) a special exception to permit renovation

[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 274]

    and use of a dwelling, in an R-2 (general residential) District, as a shelter for victims of domestic violence, with five living units and administrative offices. The shelter would provide temporary housing, counseling and support services for abused women and their children.

We must determine (1) if the proposed shelter falls within the special exception for a "rooming house" as provided in the Greensburg zoning ordinance,*fn1 and (2) whether the zoning hearing board properly determined that the proposed use would not be detrimental to the neighborhood.

[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 275]

The objectors first contend that the proposed shelter is not a "rooming house" as used in the special exception provision of the ordinance, but rather a conditional use which must be considered by the city council. The Greensburg ordinance does not define "rooming house."

The courts give undefined terms of a zoning ordinance their plain, ordinary meaning, assuming that an undefined term has been employed in its broadest sense. Appeal of Mt. Laurel Racing Association, 73 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 531, 458 A.2d 1043 (1983).

The phrase "rooming house" is commonly defined as "a house where lodgings are provided and let." Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1977). In the broadest sense of the phrase, a structure designed to house domestic violence victims temporarily is a rooming house.

The Greensburg Zoning Ordinance also contains conditional use provisions for educational, philanthropic and religious institutions*fn2 and for hospitals, sanitariums and nursing homes.*fn3 The objectors contend that the proposed shelter requires conditional use authorization, which the ordinance provides is granted or denied by city council, in accordance with section 603 of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, Act of July 31, 1968, P.L. 805, as amended, 53 P.S. ยง 10603. Since the conditional use categories are also undefined, we agree that the proposed shelter might fall within the broadest meaning of a philanthropic institution or nursing home. Our scope of review, however, is limited to the question of whether the board abused its discretion by labeling the proposed use as a "rooming house" rather than one of the conditional uses.*fn4 Given the broad sense in which

[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 276]

    these undefined terms must be analyzed, we cannot say that the board abused its discretion by labeling the proposed shelter as a "rooming house" rather than a "philanthropic institution" or a "nursing home."

The fact that Women's Services proposes to annex administrative offices to the shelter fuels the objectors' argument that the proposed shelter constitutes a conditional use. The record indicates, however, that the board considered the proposed administrative uses and conditioned the special exception grant appropriately. The first condition to the special exception grant states: "No more than 1500 square feet of structure will be used for the administrative offices of Women's Services." Furthermore, the board's Finding of Fact No. 14 states that the 1500 square foot limitation on administrative office space would sufficiently restrict the shelter's administrative functions to an accessory use.

The objectors cite Lakeside Youth Service v. Zoning Hearing Board of Upper Moreland Township, 51 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 485, 414 A.2d 1115 (1980); Wengert v. Zoning Hearing Board of Upper Marion Township, 51 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 79, 414 A.2d 148 (1980); and Pennsylvania George Junior Republic v. Zoning Hearing Board of Coolspring Township, 37 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 151, 389 A.2d 261 (1978), as precedents for the proposition that a shelter is not a rooming house. None of those cases, however, control our analysis.

In Lakeside Youth Service, this court affirmed a trial judge's ruling that a house for six delinquent young females was not a single-family dwelling. Likewise, in Wengert, we determined that a foster home for six children did not constitute a single-family dwelling. In Pennsylvania George Junior Republic, this court determined that a group home for juvenile offenders was not entitled to a special zoning exception as a preparatory or boarding school.

[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 277]

Women's Services does not propose to operate a single-family dwelling or boarding school. Because we hold that the proposed use fits within the rooming house exception to the ordinance, we therefore affirm the trial court's determination that the board properly granted a special exception to Women's Services for the proposed shelter.*fn5

The objectors also claim that the court of common pleas erred in ruling that the proposed use would not disturb the neighborhood in view of the objectors' "overwhelming" testimony that the proposed use would be disturbing. Section 1707-4(c) of the zoning ordinance establishes, as a condition to the granting of a special exception, that the proposed use not "be disturbing to the neighborhood."

The objectors' testimony concentrated on seven features of the proposed shelter which are potentially disturbing:

1. Use of a nearby (not adjoining) lot for employee parking.

2. Employee traffic to and from the facility.

3. Client traffic to offices in the facility.

4. A children's playground on the lot.

5. Professional traffic to the facility to provide treatment to the residents.

6. The transient nature of the occupants.

[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 2787]

. The possibility of disturbances caused by irate family members.

Several of the objections concern traffic and parking problems which allegedly would be created by the proposed use. However, the record contains testimony by Women's Services that the proposed twelve-space parking lot, to accompany the renovation, would adequately serve the parking needs of the shelter residents and staff.

The record does not reveal any specific testimony to support the objection to the proposed play area. The board responded to the objection, however, by conditioning the special exception permit on the construction of a six-and-one-half foot solid wood fence to enclose the play area.

Testimony offered by Women's Services witnesses rebutted the objectors' concern about disturbances of the peace, recited in objections Nos. 6 and 7. A Greensburg police officer and a former neighbor of the existing facility testifed that the existing shelter has operated peacefully with no negative impact on that neighborhood.

In conclusion, we are unable to find an unrebutted objection or any capriciously ignored evidence to support a conclusion that the board abused its discretion in concluding that the proposed shelter would not disturb the neighborhood. We must affirm the order of the court of common pleas affirming the board's grant of the special exception.


Now, November 18, 1986, the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, No. 4820 of 1984, dated October 11, 1985, is affirmed.



Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.