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MERION PARK CIVIC ASSOCIATION v. ZONING HEARING BOARD LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP AND TOWNSHIP LOWER MERION AND ALBRECHT'S FLOWERS AND GREENHOUSES (08/27/87)

decided: August 27, 1987.

MERION PARK CIVIC ASSOCIATION, INC. ET AL., APPELLANTS
v.
ZONING HEARING BOARD OF LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP AND TOWNSHIP OF LOWER MERION AND ALBRECHT'S FLOWERS AND GREENHOUSES, INC., APPELLEES



Appeal from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, in case of In the Matter of: Merion Park Civic Association, Inc. et al. v. Zoning Hearing Board of Lower Merion Township and Township of Lower Merion and Albrecht's Flowers and Greenhouses, Inc., No. 85-15261.

COUNSEL

Daniel Sherman, P.C., for appellants.

Robert S. Ryan, with him, Lisa D. Campolo, Drinker, Biddle & Reath, for appellees.

Fred B. Fromhold, with him, Dawn S. Sunday, Haws & Burke, for intervenor, Albrecht's Flowers and Greenhouses, Inc.

Judges MacPhail and Barry, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. Judge Crumlish did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Macphail

[ 109 Pa. Commw. Page 40]

Merion Park Civic Association and four individual protestants*fn1 (jointly, Appellants) have appealed from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County which affirmed a decision of the Lower Merion Township Zoning Hearing Board (Board) regarding a nonconforming use on property owned by Albrecht's Flowers and Greenhouses, Inc. (Albrecht's). The Board determined that Albrecht's was entitled as a matter of right to install an employee parking lot on a portion of its property which had previously contained two greenhouses. We affirm.

Albrecht's has operated a florist shop and nursery business on the tract of land involved in this appeal since the early 1900s. Appellants concede that the use is a legal nonconforming use, having pre-dated enactment of the Lower Merion Zoning Ordinance in 1927. Albrecht's property is an irregularly-shaped lot, comprising approximately two to three acres in area. The tract is divided among three zoning districts: C-1 commercial, R-4 (single family) and R-5 (townhouses) residence districts. Prior to 1985, the property contained a flower shop, boiler house and six greenhouses. In 1985, Albrecht's demolished two of its greenhouses to provide room for the fifteen-space employee parking lot which is at issue in the matter sub judice.

Appellants filed an appeal with the Board following receipt of a ruling by the Township Zoning Officer that Albrecht's could install the parking lot as a continuation of its existing nonconforming use. Following a hearing, the Board upheld the Zoning Officer's ruling. Appellants subsequently appealed to the common pleas court which, without taking additional evidence, also affirmed.

[ 109 Pa. Commw. Page 41]

Our scope of review where the common pleas court has taken no additional evidence is to determine whether the Board abused its discretion or committed an error of law. Smith v. Board of Zoning Appeals, City of Scranton, 74 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 405, 459 A.2d 1350 (1983). We may conclude that the Board abused its discretion only if its fact-findings are not supported by substantial evidence. Valley View Civic Ass'n v. Zoning Board of Adjustment, 501 Pa. 550, 462 A.2d 637 (1983).

Appellants' first contention is that the two greenhouses which were demolished by Albrecht's in 1985, had actually been abandoned since December, 1981, thereby rendering inapplicable the nonconforming use status of that portion of the property. Appellants argue that the zoning status of that portion of the property, accordingly, has reverted to that of a residential district. Implicit in Appellants' argument is the assumption that a nonconforming use can be abandoned in a piecemeal fashion, building by building, where that use, as here, clearly has not been abandoned as a whole. We need not ...


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