Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, in the case of Board of Supervisors of Upper Southampton Township v. The Zoning Hearing Board of Upper Southampton Township, In Re: Schiller-Pfeiffer Machine Works Division, Belmont Industries, No. 86-07052-14-5.
Frank W. Jenkins, with him, Stephen P. Imms, Jr., for appellant.
Daniel J. Lawler, with him, John J. Gonzales, Lawler & Gonzales, for appellee.
Judges Craig and Colins, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.
[ 124 Pa. Commw. Page 104]
Schiller-Pfeiffer Machine Works (applicant) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County that reversed a decision of the Upper Southampton Township Zoning Hearing Board granting variances to the applicant to construct an addition to its manufacturing plant.
The first issue raised by the applicant is whether the court correctly decided that there was no substantial evidence to support the board's finding that the property could not possibly be developed in strict conformity with the zoning ordinance, where the record basis for that finding was the description of the property and the surrounding properties, coupled with the opinion testimony of the project manager of the company to be hired to build the extension.
The property in question is 176.2 feet wide and 1,450 feet deep. To a depth of 450 feet, the property is located in a commercial district designated C-C under the Southampton Zoning Ordinance; the remaining 1000 feet is in an R-2 residential district. Two commercial buildings abut the front of the property, and the entire rear portion is surrounded by residential development. The only access to the rear portion of the property is a driveway
[ 124 Pa. Commw. Page 105]
approximately thirty feet wide on the southeast side of the building.
The applicant has operated a machine shop and plant for the manufacture and assembly of garden tools in this building since before 1954, when Upper Southampton first enacted its zoning ordinance. The building, as well as the lot, spans both of the described zoning districts. Hence the business has been a nonconforming use in both districts since the enactment of the ordinance.*fn1
By application dated April 7, 1986, the applicant sought a construction permit to build an addition of 24,160 square feet to its existing plant (taken to 50,830 square feet by previous construction and expansion), which would result in a building with a total area of 74,990 square feet. The zoning officer of the township denied the permit, citing the use districts involved and the plan's violation of two other provisions of the zoning ordinance: Section 803(3), which permits expansion of nonconforming uses, but limits that expansion to 50% of the area occupied by the use at the time of the original enactment of the zoning ordinance, see n.1, below, and Section 502, which limits the percentage of impervious surface on a lot. The applicant then applied to the board for variances.
[ 124 Pa. Commw. Page 106]
At the zoning hearing board hearing, the applicant offered the testimony of Mark Pfeiffer, one of its principals, as to the nature and history of the business, its current state, and the asserted need for additional warehouse space. William F. Fishburn, an employee of the company hired to develop the plan for the addition, testified concerning the specifics of the plan, which includes proposed construction of additional parking area, a water retention basin to limit run-off to present levels or below, and some landscaping as well as the addition to the building. Mr. Fishburn also testified as to his negative opinion of the feasibility of developing the land behind the building ...