The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mary Hannah Leavitt, Judge
Submitted: December 30, 2011
BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge
Antonietta and Marian DeSantis (Landowners) appeal, pro se, the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County (trial court) granting dimensional variances to the City of Aliquippa for its proposed police department substation. In doing so, the trial court affirmed the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board of the City of Aliquippa (Board) that the substation was a permitted use and that the City would suffer a hardship without a dimensional variance. Landowners raise a number of errors, but we do not reach them because we conclude that the trial court was required to conduct a de novo review of the Board's deemed approval of the City's application, and it failed to do so. Accordingly, we vacate and remand.
On July 22, 2010, the City applied for dimensional variances on a lot
it has leased in the IT Institutional District of the City.*fn1
It sought these dimensional variances to construct a police
department substation, which is an enclosed trailer that houses a
computer. The computer operates a nearby security camera.
The Board held a public hearing on the City's application. Thomas Stoner, City Administrator, testified that the property is owned by the Aliquippa School District. When the School District purchased the property, it included a single family home. Concluding that the house was uninhabitable, the School District demolished it. It then leased the vacant property to the City for $1.00 per month for its proposed substation, so that the City can establish a police presence in the neighborhood. This presence will deter crime, loitering and vandalism in the neighborhood.
Stoner testified that the property measures 35' by 108' and totals 3,780 square feet in size. The proposed substation measures 20' by 8' and has a 50' front yard setback from the main street, a 50' yard setback from the rear, an 8' side yard setback from the east and a 7' side yard setback from the west. Stoner explained that the substation cannot meet the current dimensional zoning requirements. Under the City of Aliquippa Zoning Ordinance, last amended in 2009, buildings in the IT Institutional District are subject to the following standards:
1. Minimum lot area -- 21,780 square feet.
2. Minimum lot width -- 75 feet.
(a) Front yard -- 50 feet.
(b) Side yards -- 15 feet each side.
(c) Rear yards -- 40 feet.
CITY OF ALIQUIPPA ZONING ORDINANCE, Section 1605(A)1-3, ...