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Laughman v. Zoning Hearing Board of Newberry Township

January 5, 2009

ROBERT L. LAUGHMAN, APPELLANT
v.
ZONING HEARING BOARD OF NEWBERRY TOWNSHIP, CARL E. HUGHES AND KATHY L. HUGHES, HUSBAND AND WIFE AND NEWBERRY TOWNSHIP



ORDER

AND NOW, this 5th day of January, 2009, the opinion filed October 9, 2008, in the above-captioned matter shall be designated Opinion rather than Memorandum Opinion, and it shall be reported.

DAN PELLEGRINI, JUDGE

Argued: September 11, 2008

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Judge, HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge.

OPINION

JUDGE PELLEGRINI

FILED: October 9, 2008

Robert L. Laughman (Laughman) appeals the decision of the Court of Common Pleas of York County (trial court) affirming the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board of Newberry Township (Zoning Board) finding that he did not have standing to bring a substantive validity challenge to the Newberry Township Zoning Ordinance (Ordinance) and Zoning Map Amendment (Amendment) creating a Rural Commercial Overlay (RCO) district.

On July 25, 2006, the township's Ordinance and Zoning Map (Map) were amended to establish an RCO district.*fn1 In September 2006, Laughman filed an application with the Zoning Board requesting a hearing to challenge the validity of the Amendment. Laughman contended that the Amendment to the Ordinance and Map violated the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions because the Amendment was unreasonable, arbitrary and/or not substantially related to police powers; the designation of the subject RCO district was "spot zoning;" and a conflict of interest existed because a member of the Board of Supervisors would have financially benefited from the amendments. Before testimony was taken, Carl E. Hughes and Kathy L. Hughes (Intervenors), who owned property in the RCO district, filed a motion to dismiss Laughman's appeal, which the township joined. They contended that Laughman lacked standing to appeal the rezoning because he was not an "aggrieved person" within the meaning of Section 913.3 of the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), Act of July 31, 1968, P.L. 805, as amended, 53 P.S. §10913.3.*fn2 The hearing was continued to a later date and evidence was taken solely on the issue of whether Laughman had standing to maintain his claim.

Laughman testified that he was the owner and resident of a property at 1827 York Road, Dover, Newberry Township, approximately 8/10 of a mile away from the proposed RCO district. Besides his personal residence, he testified that he also owned four other residential rental properties and a commercial property in Newberry Township. The commercial property was a mini-storage warehouse property located within two miles of the proposed RCO district, and his residential properties were about 8/10 of a mile to a mile away from the RCO district.

Laughman testified that due to the Amendment in question, the Susquehanna Speedway (Speedway) began operating a flea market which increased traffic along York Road where his residential properties were located, and that traffic would further increase when another flea market on Intervenors' property opened. However, he admitted that he had not received complaints from his tenants about the increased traffic, and that they had not reported any problems in entering or leaving their driveways. Laughman also admitted on cross-examination that the increased traffic would not adversely affect his commercial business, and he had not experienced any adverse effects at the time of the hearing.

Agreeing with Intervenors and the township, the Zoning Board dismissed the appeal, finding that Laughman lacked standing because he was not an "aggrieved person" within the meaning of Section 913.3 of the MPC as he had not shown a sufficient, direct, substantial or immediate harm or adverse affect upon his interests. Laughman appealed to the trial court, which affirmed, and this appeal followed.*fn3

On appeal, Laughman contends that he did present evidence to prove that he was aggrieved because he established that he lived in close proximity to the rezoned property and all he needed to show was some "substantial interest" -- a discernible adverse effect on some concrete interest, and the interest did not need to be pecuniary to be substantial.

Generally, in order to establish standing as an "aggrieved person," it must be shown that the person has a substantial, direct and immediate interest in the claim sought to be litigated. A substantial interest is one in which there is some discernible adverse effect to some interest other than an abstract interest all citizens have, and a direct interest requires a showing that the matter complained of causes harm to the party's interest, though not necessarily a pecuniary interest. Immediacy requires that the interest is something more than a "remote" consequence and centers on a causal nexus between the action complained of and the injury to the party challenging it. See Pittsburgh Trust for Cultural Resources v. Zoning Board of Adjustment for the City of Pittsburgh, 604 A.2d 2908 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1992). For a party to be "aggrieved," the interest of the ...


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