Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, in the case of George Zaruta, Marie Klein, Jack Knelly, Donald Hartley, Mary Bogdan, Leonard Karalunas, Paul Sarnak, Ann Hartley, Irene Mullen, Ann Lynch and Ruth Cook v. The Zoning Hearing Board of the City of Wilkes-Barre, No. 624-C of 1986.
John A. Bednarz, Jr., Silverblatt & Townend, for appellants.
Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr., for appellee, Zoning Hearing Board of the City of Wilkes-Barre.
Charles D. McCormick, O'Connor, McCormick & MacDonald, for intervenor, Catholic Social Services of Wyoming Valley.
Judges Craig and Barry, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig. Dissenting Opinion by Senior Judge Kalish.
[ 117 Pa. Commw. Page 527]
George Zaruta and others, as objectors, appeal an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County which affirmed a decision of the Zoning Hearing Board of the City of Wilkes-Barre granting a use variance to Catholic Social Services (CSS). The variance allowed CSS and an interdenominational organization, Shepherd of the Streets, to establish a permanent shelter for the homeless in a CSS-owned building located in a C-2 district (Commercial, Community) where it is not a permitted use. We reverse the trial court's decision.
[ 117 Pa. Commw. Page 528]
The privotal issue in this case is whether the board's decision to grant the variance is supported by findings which demonstrate any unique physical circumstances or conditions peculiar to the particular property which would result in inability to make a reasonable use of the property if the variance was not granted.
On December 18, 1985, the board held a hearing on CSS's petition for a use variance to permit the establishment of a group care facility in its East Jackson Street building, which also housed the St. Vincent de Paul's Kitchen. Several witnesses in favor of the petition testified that the number of homeless people in the community was growing; that the current Shepherd in the Streets program of providing shelter to the homeless in the basement of volunteer churches was inadequate; and that a permanent overnight shelter was greatly needed. Two witnesses testified against the proposed shelter, expressing fears that the shelter would have a negative impact on their neighborhood. The objectors presented a petition signed by over 100 residents opposed to the shelter. The board decided that it would announce its decision at its next scheduled meeting.
On January 15, 1986, the board voted to grant the use variance, subject to several conditions. The board based its decision on the following findings of fact:
3. The applicant has specifically requested a use variance to permit the establishment of a group care facility in a C-2 zone and also for a waiver of the maximum number of individuals permitted to reside in a group care facility from 8 up to 25, a waiver of the required 27 off-street parking spaces down to 12, and also for a waiver of the required 250 square feet of usable and accessible open space required for the proposed group care facility.
[ 117 Pa. Commw. Page 5294]
. The present use of subject property is a restaurant known as the St. Vincent de Paul's Kitchen.
5. Neighboring property owners, represented by legal counsel, appeared at the public hearing to express objection to the proposed use as did others appear to express support of the proposed use.
6. The proposed group care facility would essentially be operated as a shelter for the homeless people of the community and/or perhaps other communities and at the present time would be operated ...