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BOROUGH TRAPPE v. BRUCE LONGAKER (09/30/88)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: September 30, 1988.

THE BOROUGH OF TRAPPE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PA, APPELLANT
v.
BRUCE LONGAKER, APPELLEE. BRUCE LONGAKER, APPELLANT V. THE BOROUGH OF TRAPPE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PA, APPELLEE

Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, in the case of The Borough of Trappe, Montgomery Co., Pa. v. Bruce Longaker, No. 85-15848.

COUNSEL

Lawrence Sager, for appellant, Borough of Trappe.

Barry W. Kerchner, for appellee Bruce Longaker.

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

Author: Narick

[ 120 Pa. Commw. Page 181]

The Borough of Trappe (Borough) appeals from a decision and order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County. For the reasons set forth herein, we must reverse the decision of the trial court.

This case evolves from a sea of litigation commencing in 1977 when Bruce Longaker (Longaker), as the owner of property situated at 132 West 7th Avenue in the Borough, filed a curative amendment which would allow him to use his property as a junkyard. In response to Longaker's petition, the Borough on April 13, 1977 enacted Ordinance No. 183-D which deleted the Borough's prohibition against junkyards and permitted the use of property as a junkyard in an LI-Limited Industrial District. On May 2, 1977, the Borough enacted the Borough of Trappe Junkyard Ordinance, Ordinance No. 202, which regulated the establishment and maintenance of junkyards and scrap yards in the Borough.*fn1 On January 11, 1979, the trial court rendered an opinion regarding Longaker's petition for curative amendment which required the Borough to issue Longaker a use permit for a junkyard when and if Longaker was in full compliance with all other valid ordinances and regulations.

[ 120 Pa. Commw. Page 182]

Subsequently, the Borough initiated litigation against Longaker alleging that he was in violation of Borough ordinances and regulations. On January 17, 1980, the court of common pleas issued a decision and order which provided, inter alia, that Longaker: (1) install a fence around the junkyard;*fn2 (2) provide rear and side yard setback requirements of 20 and 10 feet respectively; (3) plant appropriate shrubbery around the fence; (4) abide by the standards set forth in Sections 1001-1007 of Ordinance No. 183; and (5) provide a 20-foot wide access road through the premises so as to permit passageway by fire and emergency equipment. The order further provided that it was the court's intent to enforce the earlier order issued by the trial court in 1979.*fn3

On February 2, 1982, the Borough adopted Ordinance No. 223 which regulated the use of property as a junkyard.*fn4 On June 9, 1983, Longaker purchased property situated at 150 West 7th Avenue, which is adjacent to his 132 West 7th Avenue property and located in an LI District. Longaker intended to expand his junkyard business onto his newly acquired property and in 1985 applied to the Borough for a permit to construct a fence around his property. Subsequently, Longaker was advised by the Borough that before he could expand his business he must submit plans to the Borough as required

[ 120 Pa. Commw. Page 183]

    by Ordinance No. 223. The Borough denied Longaker's request for a fence permit. Although no appeal was taken from the Borough's decision, Longaker continued the construction of a fence around his 150 West 7th Avenue property.*fn5

On October 11, 1985, the Borough filed a complaint in equity alleging that: (1) Longaker is in violation of Borough ordinances; (2) Longaker's junkyard business does not comply with setback and side yard requirements; and (3) Longaker has failed to obtain the necessary licenses in order to operate his junkyard. The Borough contended that Longaker should be enjoined from operating his business or in the alternative that he be required to comply with orders previously issued by the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County.*fn6

On June 2, 1987, the trial court, after hearing, issued a decision and order which directed Longaker to first submit plans to the Borough's planning commission as required by Article X, Section 1016 of Ordinance No. 183 if he wished to expand his junkyard operation. The trial court further indicated that Longaker should comply with Ordinance No. 223 (i.e. file an application for a license to operate a junkyard) as well as Ordinance No. 183 except Section 1012 of Ordinance No. 183 relating to area, width and side yard requirements. The Borough appealed this order with respect to that portion which exempted Longaker from compliance with the area, width and side yard requirements of Section 1012.

[ 120 Pa. Commw. Page 184]

Thus, the sole issue presented for our resolution is whether the trial court erred in modifying the area, width and side yard requirements for the junkyard situated at 150 West 7th Avenue when no application had been presented by Longaker to the Borough's zoning authorities for such a modification.

Section 1012 of Ordinance No. 183 provides:

A. Lot, Area and Width. No LI-Limited Industrial District shall be less than ten (10) acres and no individual lot will be less than two (2) acres with a minimum width of two hundred (200) feet at the building line.

B. Front Yard. The required minimum front yard shall be fifty (50) feet in depth measured from the ultimate right-of-way line.

C. Side Yards. There shall be two (2) side yards each of which will not be less than thirty (30) feet in width, subject to exception hereinafter set forth in Section 1013.

D. Rear Yards. The required minimum depth of a rear yard shall be forty (40) feet subject to exception hereinafter set forth in Section 1013.*fn7

It is a cornerstone principle in equity that when the legislature provides a statutory remedy, equity has no place. Caserta v. Milford Township, 35 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 598, 387 A.2d 495 (1978). An action in equity

[ 120 Pa. Commw. Page 185]

    cannot be used to adjudicate zoning questions. Id.*fn8 Thus, when the applicable zoning laws provide an adequate remedy, the law must be followed. See Pittsburgh Outdoor Advertising Co. v. Clairton, 390 Pa. 1, 133 A.2d 542 (1957); Caserta. Therefore, although it was proper for the trial court to direct Longaker to first pursue permission for expansion as well as operation of his business through the Borough zoning authorities, it was improper for the trial court to exempt Longaker from the area, width and side yard requirements of Section 1012. Longaker has not at anytime submitted an application to the Borough for a license or a variance with respect to the operation or expansion of his junkyard business. Before the trial court can become involved in any decisions regarding the operation of this business or any variances required thereof, it must first be submitted to the zoning authorities.

Accordingly, for the reasons set forth herein, we must reverse the trial court's order as to that portion which exempted Longaker from the area, width and side yard requirements of Section 1012.

Order

And Now, this 30th day of September, 1988, the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County in the above-captioned matters is reversed to the extent that the trial court exempted Longaker from the area, width and side yard requirements of Section 1012.

Disposition

Reversed.


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