Appeal from Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, Honorable Horace A. Davenport, Honorable Marjorie C. Lawrence, Judges.
Frank W. Jenkins, with him, Stephen P. Imms, Jr., Jenkins, Tarquini & Jenkins, Ambler, for appellant.
Paul D. North, Sr., Duffy, North, Wilson, Thomas & Nicholson, Hatboro, for appellee.
Crumlish, Jr., President Judge, and Colins and McGinley, JJ.
[ 130 Pa. Commw. Page 10]
Hansen Properties, III (Hansen), appeals a Montgomery County Common Pleas Court order sustaining the Horsham Township Zoning Hearing Board's (Board) denial of two variance requests. We affirm in part and reverse in part.
Hansen is the owner of Oak Terrace, a private country club (club) located in a residentially zoned district that allows only single-family detached dwellings.*fn1 The 161-acre property consists of a golf course, the "manor" house of the original property (manor house) and a reconverted barn where the clubhouse and its restaurant are located. After purchasing the property in 1981, Hansen extensively renovated the manor house, converting it into his personal corporate office space. In 1985, he began allowing public patronage of the club's private restaurant. The township subsequently issued Hansen a cease-and-desist order, informing him that these uses violated the township zoning ordinance. Only then did Hansen request variances to legitimize, by permit, corporate commercial use of the manor house and public access to the club restaurant. In the alternative, he requested an interpretation of Ordinance § 701.1(g)(1)(b) to allow public use of the club restaurant as "incidental" to the permitted use. The Board denied both variance requests, finding that Hansen had not demonstrated the premises were subject to unnecessary hardship and that public patronage of the private restaurant exceeded the permitted use contemplated by the township ordinance. The common pleas court, sitting en banc, affirmed.
First, Hansen contends that the Board erred in concluding that the ordinance does not impose unnecessary hardship
[ 130 Pa. Commw. Page 11]
on his use of the manor house. We disagree.*fn2
A landowner seeking a use variance must establish that (1) the ordinance imposes an unnecessary hardship on the property; (2) that results from the property's unique physical characteristics; (3) granting the variance would not have an adverse impact on the health, safety and welfare of the general public; (4) the hardship is not self-inflicted; and (5) the variance sought is the minimum that will afford relief. Section 912 of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, Act of July 31, 1968, P.L. 805, as amended, 53 P.S. § 10912; Bellosi v. Zoning Hearing Board of Clifton Heights Borough, 96 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 83, 506 A.2d 997 (1986). Unnecessary hardship, in turn, results when the property cannot be used for any permitted purpose, or for a permitted purpose only at prohibitive expense, rendering it practically valueless if the variance is not granted. Keystone Sportsmen Association of Lycoming County, Inc. v. Zoning Hearing Board of Delaware Township, 100 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 384, 514 A.2d 974 (1986). Moreover, "[a] mere showing of economic hardship, standing alone, does not justify the granting of a variance." Buckingham Developers, Inc. Appeal, 61 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 408, 412, 433 A.2d 931, 933 (1981).
Our review of the record discloses that Hansen has not established the threshold requirement of unnecessary hardship. Here, the Board found that Hansen's present use of the property as a country club and golf course was reasonable.*fn3 On appeal, Hansen has failed to demonstrate why these operations cannot continue or why the property's unique physical characteristics preclude future development as ...