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Barnabei v. Chadds Ford Township Zoning Hearing Board

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

June 10, 2015

Drew and Nicola Barnabei, Appellants
v.
Chadds Ford Township Zoning Hearing Board

Argued May 8, 2015

Page 18

Appealed from No. 14-001875. Common Pleas Court of the County of Delaware. Proud, J.

James J. Byrne and Kelly C. Hayes, Media, for appellants.

Kathryn Luce Labrum, Media, for appellee.

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge.

OPINION

P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge

Page 19

Drew Barnabei and Nicole[1] Barnabei (collectively, Appellants) appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County (trial court), which affirmed the decision of the Chadds Ford Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB). The ZHB denied Appellants' application to use their property as a catered events venue. We now affirm.

Appellants purchased the Stonebridge Mansion (Stonebridge), located at 681 Webb Road, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, from 901 Poplar, LP (901 Poplar) in 2011. (Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 38a.) Stonebridge is located in the historic overlay of the R-1 residential zoning district. After their purchase, Appellants moved into Stonebridge with their two children and began to use it as their primary residence. ( Id. at 84a.)

Appellants later decided to rent out the first and second floors of Stonebridge as a catered events venue. ( Id. at 120a.) Appellants entered into a contract with Drexelbrook Catering (Drexelbrook), which allows Drexelbrook to exclusively cater any events at Stonebridge.[2] ( Id. at 313a.) Appellants then sought permission from the former Chadds Ford Township Manager, Joseph Barakat, to hold a music and food festival at Stonebridge. ( Id. at 137a-38a, 140a.) Mr. Barakat explained that the operation of a catered events venue was not a permitted use for a property in an R-1 district. ( Id. at 140a-41a.) Mr. Barakat enclosed a zoning application so that Appellants could seek zoning relief, which Appellants did not initially pursue. ( Id. at 141a.)

On June 5, 2013, Hugh Donaghue, the Chadds Ford Township Solicitor, also informed

Page 20

Appellants that Appellants' proposed use of Stonebridge was not a permitted use in an R-1 district. (Letter from Hugh Donaghue to Appellants (June 5, 2013).) Mr. Donaghue stated that although Appellants were aware of the permitted uses of a residence in an R-1 district, they persisted in operating a " banquet/event facility" at Stonebridge and advertised Stonebridge as " available for weddings and other large gatherings." ( Id. ) Mr. Donaghue indicated that the Township would take legal action to end Appellants' use of the property as a catered events venue. ( Id. ) The township subsequently obtained an injunction to prevent Appellants from holding the proposed music and food festival. (R.R. at 92a.) In addition to the injunction, a township Zoning Officer issued Appellants six non-traffic citations for holding events on April 20, 2013; April 26, 2013; and May 23, 2013.

Seeking to appeal the citations as well as the June 5, 2013, correspondence from Mr. Donaghue, Appellants submitted an " Application for Special Exception, Variance, Interpretation under Zoning Ordinance or Appeal" (Application) to the ZHB. In the Application, Appellants sought to " continue to use [Stonebridge] for weddings and other private events." (C.R. Application at 1.) Appellants further provided:

[Appellants] appeal the determination of the Township Solicitor and/or zoning officer(s) in that . . . [Appellants'] use of the property is compliant in all aspects with the Township Zoning Ordinance and Pennsylvania law. [Appellants'] use of the property is a continuation of a legal non-conforming use. [Appellants'] rental of their private residence to a third party for five ...

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