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06/10/97 EQUILIBRIUM EQUITIES v. BOARD SUPERVISORS

June 10, 1997

EQUILIBRIUM EQUITIES, INC., APPELLANT
v.
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF MIDDLESEX TOWNSHIP, CUMBERLAND COUNTY



Appealed From No. 96-1220 Civil Term. Common Pleas Court of the County of Cumberland. Judge BAYLEY.

Before: Honorable James Gardner Colins, President Judge, Honorable James R. Kelley, Judge (p.), Honorable Charles A. Lord, Senior Judge. Opinion BY President Judge Colins.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colins

OPINION BY PRESIDENT JUDGE COLINS

FILED: June 10, 1997

Equilibrium Equities, Inc. (Equilibrium) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County (trial court) which affirmed a decision of the Middlesex Township Board of Supervisors (Board) denying Equilibrium's application for a preliminary land development plan in Middlesex Township (Township) because its proposed use is not permitted in the Township's Limited Industrial district (LI district).

On October 31, 1995, Equilibrium filed a preliminary land development application, together with a preliminary land development plan, a traffic impact study, a stormwater and drainage calculations report and an environmental impact assessments report to construct a facility on approximately 37 acres of land in the Township's LI district. The plan proposes the construction of two adjacent buildings -- one 300,000 square feet and the other 201,000 square feet. The land abuts properties which are zoned Industrial General (IG district) to the north, LI (LI district) to the west and south and Residential Farm (RF district) to the east. The facility will "store goods, take orders on-line from retailers, mix, recase, label and price customers' goods, prepare goods to be transported, assemble modular pallets, and in some cases do transporting." (Board decision at 2.) The facility will have approximately 40 dock doors for trucks spanning the rear with 140-foot deep trailer storage and loading areas. There will be 130 parking spaces in front of the facility. The proposed facility will generate between 600 and 2100 trips daily, 25% of which will be comprised of truck traffic. An estimated 100 employees will work at the facility which will operate around the clock.

The Board denied the preliminary land development application finding that the proposed use constituted "trucking terminals, storage facilities and garages" as defined in Section 12.03(B) of the Middlesex Township Zoning Ordinance (Ordinance) which use is only permitted in the IG district. On appeal, the trial court agreed that the proposed use constituted a trucking terminal rather than a warehouse.

The issues in this case are (1) whether Equilibrium's proposed use constitutes a truck terminal or a warehouse, (2) whether the reasons cited by the Board for denial of the land development plan are legally deficient, (3) whether the Board failed to interpret the terms of the ordinance in a manner favorable to the landowner, and (4) whether the proposed use comports with the LI district requirements.

Where, as here, the trial court has not taken any additional evidence, this court's review is limited to determining whether the zoning hearing board or board of supervisors committed a manifest abuse of discretion or error of law. South Whitford Associates, Inc. v. Zoning Hearing Board of West Whiteland Township, 157 Pa. Commw. 387, 630 A.2d 903 (Pa. Commw. 1993), petition for allowance of appeal denied, 538 Pa. 652, 647 A.2d 905 (1994).

Under the Ordinance, permitted uses in the LI district include "warehousing, and wholesaling establishments and storage yards, but not including junk yards." Section 11.03B. Permitted uses in the IG district include "trucking terminals, storage facilities and garages." Section 12.03B. The terms warehouse, storage and trucking terminal are not defined in the Ordinance. As such, in accordance with Section 2.01 of the Ordinance, those terms "have the meanings given in Webster's Unabridged Dictionary and shall be interpreted so as to give this ordinance its most reasonable application."

The terms warehouse, storage and terminal are defined in Webster's Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged) (1993) as follows:

warehouse... 1. a structure or room for the storage of merchandise or commodities; a: a wholesale establishment of the service type in which large inventories are carried b: a wholesale establishment operated by a chain store organization c: a place for the storing of surplus or reserve stocks of merchandise by a retail store d: a public institution for the storing of goods for others.

storage... 2a : the act of storing or state of being stored ... specif: the safekeeping of goods in a warehouse or other depository (place goods in ...) ... c: the holding and housing of goods from the time they are produced until their sale.

terminal... 6a : either end of a carrier line (as a railroad, trucking or shipping line, or airline) with classifying yards, docks and lighterage facilities, management offices, storage sheds, and freight and passenger stations b: a freight or passenger station that is central to a ...


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