Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of Elias N. Kassouf v. Zoning Hearing Board of Scott Township and Township of Scott, No. SA 806 -- 84.
Patrick J. Clair, with him, Frederick A. Boehm, Goehring, Rutter & Boehm, for appellant.
Richard A. Ferris, Ferris, DiPaolo & Russo, for appellee, Township of Scott.
Judges MacPhail and Palladino, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.
[ 112 Pa. Commw. Page 183]
Elias N. Kassouf (Appellant) appeals from a decision of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, affirming the denial of a use variance by the Zoning Hearing Board of Scott Township (Board).
Appellant owns a tract of land in Scott Township in an R-1 district. The R-1 classification permits only single family detached dwellings. Appellant asserted entitlement to a variance to build 117 townhouses on the ground that the topography of the property makes a single family dwelling development prohibitively expensive. In support of his entitlement to a variance, Appellant presented the testimony of an engineer, a real estate appraiser, and a landscape architect.
Frederick Omar, a registered professional engineer, testified that he had, at Appellant's request, prepared a subdivision creating single family detached dwellings. N.T. at 40. Mr. Omar stated that the maximum number of lots the property could be divided into was sixty-three.
[ 112 Pa. Commw. Page 184]
N.T. at 40-41. Mr. Omar also stated that although the property could hold 63 lots, much of the development would be costly because of the steeply sloping land and the extensive grading which would be necessary. N.T. at 45-47 and 53. Steven Victor, a landscape architect, also testified as to the steep slopes of the property.
Appellant also presented the testimony of John K. Ellis, a real estate broker and appraiser. Mr. Ellis testified to the extreme topography of the land and stated it would not be economically feasible to subdivide the land into single family residential lots. N.T. at 66-67. Mr. Ellis also stated the range of new home prices in the area surrounding the property in question was $52,500 to $84,000 with a lot cost of approximately $20,000. N.T. at 67. Mr. Ellis testified that because the lot cost for the land in question would be over $40,000, the cost of homes on those lots would be far above the price range of comparable existing homes in the area. N.T. at 69.
The Township presented the testimony of Donald W. Tate, a registered professional engineer. Mr. Tate testified he was familiar with the property in question and indicated development within the R-1 strictures was perfectly feasible if lots were not maximized. N.T. at 74-76. While conceding that the topography in some areas of the parcel was extreme, Mr. Tate stated the most steeply sloped areas should be "throw away areas" so as to reduce the overall grading costs, N.T. at 75-76, and thereby reduce the cost per lot.
The Board denied the requested variance, noting that financial hardship alone is not enough to support the grant of a variance and that a single family dwelling development would not be prohibitively expensive if Appellant did not maximize the number of lots. Appellant appealed the Board's decision to ...