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Shaw v. Township of Upper St. Clair Zoning Hearing Board

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

July 5, 2013

Jarrod D. Shaw
v.
Township of Upper St. Clair Zoning Hearing Board
v.
1800 Washington Road Associates Jarrod D. Shaw and Moira E. Cain-Mannix
v.
Township of Upper St. Clair
v.
1800 Washington Road Associates Appeal of: Moira E. Cain-Mannix

Argued: April 16, 2013

BEFORE: HONORABLE RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE JAMES GARDNER COLINS, Senior Judge

OPINION

P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge

Appellant Moira E. Cain-Mannix (Cain-Mannix) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County (trial court), dated July 6, 2012. The trial court held that Ordinance No. 2056, an amendment to the zoning code of the Township of Upper St. Clair (Township), constituted a text amendment rather than a map change. The trial court also dismissed Cain-Mannix's procedural validity challenge to the ordinance as untimely under Section 5571.1 of the Judicial Code.[1] For the reasons set forth below, we now reverse in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings.

The relevant facts and procedural history of this matter are summarized as follows. Developer 1800 Washington Road Associates, LP (Developer) owns property (Property) located at 1800 Washington Road in the Township. (Tr. Ct. Opinion at 2.) The Property contains a 140, 000 square foot, four-story office building that was previously used as the corporate headquarters for Consol Energy Corp. (Id.) On March 3, 2011, the Developer submitted an application for a zoning text amendment with the Township's Department of Planning and Community Development, seeking to allow mixed use development as a conditional use in a special business district. (Id.) The Township's planning commission reviewed the proposed amendment at public meetings held on March 24, 2011; April 21, 2011; May 5, 2011; and June 16, 2011. (Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 71a.) At its June 16, 2011 meeting, the planning commission recommended that the Township's Board of Commissioners (Commissioners) approve the proposed amendment. (Id.) After holding public meetings on the matter, the Commissioners approved the amendment, identified as Ordinance No. 2056, on October 3, 2011. (Id. at 71a-72a.)

On October 31, 2011, Jarrod D. Shaw (Shaw) filed an appeal to the Township of Upper St. Clair Zoning Hearing Board (Board), arguing that (1) Ordinance No. 2056 had been mischaracterized as a text amendment as opposed to a map change, (2) the notice requirements for a map change were not followed, and (3) those who opposed Ordinance No. 2056 were not given a full and fair opportunity to present their positions before the Commissioners. (Id. at 72a-73a.) On December 14, 2011, the Township filed a motion to quash Shaw's appeal and a supporting brief, asserting that under Section 1002-A(b) of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), [2] a challenge to the validity of a land use ordinance raising procedural issues is to be taken directly to the court of common pleas of the county where the municipality is located. (Id. at 73a.) Shaw filed a brief in opposition to the Township's motion to quash, and the Board held a hearing on the matter. (Id.)

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board granted the Township's motion to quash and dismissed Shaw's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. (Id.) The Board issued an adjudication in support of its ruling, in which it concluded that Shaw's challenges to notice and the adequacy of the time allotted for those in opposition to Ordinance No. 2056 to present their positions were both procedural in nature. (Id. at 74a.) In support of this conclusion, the Board noted that the substance of Ordinance No. 2056 would not be altered in any way if Shaw's appeal was successful, and that Shaw himself repeatedly characterized his appeal as a procedural challenge. (Id. at 74a-75a.) The Board also concluded that Shaw's argument regarding the mischaracterization of Ordinance No. 2056 as a text amendment rather than a map change was nothing more than a predicate to a procedural challenge. (Id. at 74a.) Moreover, the Board rejected Shaw's contention that Ordinance No. 2056 was a map change, because the ordinance did not increase or decrease the size of a zoning district, did not move a zoning district boundary, did not add or eliminate a zoning district designation, and did not rezone a tract. (Id.) The Board concluded, therefore, that because all of the challenges to the validity of Ordinance No. 2056 raised by Shaw were procedural challenges, the Board lacked jurisdiction over the appeal pursuant to Section 1002-A(b) of the MPC. (Id. at 74a-75a.)

On January 26, 2012, Shaw appealed the Board's decision to the trial court. On January 30, 2012, apparently in light of the Board's decision, Shaw and Cain-Mannix brought a challenge to the procedural validity of Ordinance No. 2056 directly before the trial court. Among other arguments, Shaw and Cain-Mannix alleged that Ordinance No. 2056 was void ab initio, because it constituted a map change rather than a text amendment and the Township did not meet the notice requirements for map changes provided in the MPC and the Township's zoning code. Subsequently, the Developer intervened in both appeals, and the Township intervened in the appeal filed by Shaw. By order dated April 2, 2012, the trial court consolidated the appeals, and the parties filed briefs on May 9, 2012.

In addition to their arguments concerning the appeal filed by Shaw, the Developer and the Township alleged that the action filed by Cain-Mannix and Shaw should be dismissed as untimely under Section 5571.1 of the Judicial Code. In response, Shaw and Cain-Mannix argued that their joint action was timely under the exemption provided in Section 5571.1 of the Judicial Code and, alternatively, that Section 5571.1 of the Judicial Code placed an invalid limitation on a party's right to challenge the procedural validity of an ordinance. The parties also presented arguments regarding whether Ordinance No. 2056 was a text amendment as opposed to a map change and whether the notice requirements were followed properly for enactment of Ordinance No. 2056.

The trial court issued its decision on July 3, 2012, and an accompanying order on July 6, 2012. Without taking any additional evidence, [3] the trial court held that the Board correctly determined that Shaw's appeal was procedural under Section 1002-A(b) of the MPC. (Tr. Ct. Opin. at 3.) In doing so, the trial court cited the Board's reasoning that Shaw's challenges regarding notice and the adequacy of the amount of time allotted for public comment were both procedural, and that Shaw's argument regarding whether Ordinance No. 2056 was a text amendment or a map change was nothing more than a predicate to a procedural challenge. (Id.) The trial court also stated that Shaw himself characterized his appeal as a procedural appeal on several documents in the matter. (Id. at 4.) Thus, the trial court concluded that the Board lacked jurisdiction over Shaw's appeal. (Id.)

The trial court also held that Ordinance No. 2056 constituted a text amendment rather than a map change. (Id.) The trial court again cited the Board's reasoning that if Shaw's appeal was successful, the substance of Ordinance No. 2056 would not be altered in any way, and that no zoning district increased or decreased in size, no boundary was moved, no zoning district designation was added or eliminated, and no tract was rezoned. (Id.)

Finally, the trial court determined that the appeal filed by Shaw and Cain-Mannix was untimely under Section 5571.1(b) of the Judicial Code. (Id. at 3-4.) The trial court noted that pursuant to the Township's Home Rule Charter, the effective date of Ordinance No. 2056 was the date of post-enactment publication, which occurred in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on October 27, 2011. (Id.) The trial court, therefore, determined that a procedural appeal must have been filed by November 26, 2011, and that the appeal filed by Shaw and Cain-Mannix was not filed until January 30, 2012. (Id. at 4.) Cain-Mannix then appealed the trial court's order to this Court.[4]

On appeal, [5] Cain-Mannix argues that the trial court erred in concluding that Ordinance No. 2056 is a text amendment rather than a map change and that Ordinance No. 2056 is invalid because the Township failed to follow the proper notice procedures for map changes as provided by the MPC and the Township's zoning code. Cain-Mannix also argues that the trial court erred in concluding that her appeal is untimely under Section 5571.1 of the Judicial Code.

We first address the issue of whether Ordinance No. 2056 constitutes a text amendment rather than a map change.[6] Cain-Mannix argues that Ordinance No. 2056 constitutes a map change, because it effectively rezones the Property, placing it in its own newly-created zoning district located within the existing special business district. In support of this argument, Cain-Mannix contends that the Township has created an entirely new zoning classification, which is targeted at the Property and comprehensively changes the nature of the Property's zoning in a manner that is substantially different from all of the other properties in the special business district. In response, the Township and the Developer argue that Ordinance No. 2056 constitutes a text amendment, because it does not add or eliminate zoning districts or change the boundaries of existing zoning districts. The Township and Developer assert that Ordinance No. 2056 simply allows for mixed use developments in the special business district as a conditional ...


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