Zoning Hearing Board
The Zoning Hearing Board is scheduled to meet the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 6:00 PM.
Please review the agenda’s page to determine if a Hearing is scheduled to be conducted
Zoning Hearing Board
End of Term: 1/1/2027
End of Term: 1/1/2023
End of Term: 1/1/2026
John Porter, Esq.
End of Term: 1/1/2025
End of Term: 1/1/2026
Jeffrey Rehmeyer, Esq.
What is the Zoning Hearing Board?
The zoning hearing board is a quasi-judicial body that renders decisions on specific types of land use appeals and applications. Members of the zoning hearing board are appointed by the governing body and serve a five-year term.
The primary purpose of the zoning hearing board is to help assure fair and equitable application and administration of the zoning ordinance. The board hears appeals from the zoning officer’s determinations and grants relief from the literal enforcement of the zoning ordinance in certain hardship situations by means of a variance. The zoning hearing board also hears applications for special use and challenges to the substantive validity of ordinances. The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) provides a specific set of rules that must be followed for applications submitted to the zoning hearing board.
The zoning hearing board schedules hearings on applications and appeals that come before it, takes evidence, and issues written decisions with findings of fact and conclusions of law. The zoning hearing board limits its scope of activities to those allowable by the MPC and by the local zoning ordinance.
While the zoning hearing board is not responsible for the contents of the zoning ordinance but plays a vital role in the overall effectiveness of the zoning ordinance.
The Zoning Hearing Board is scheduled to meet the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 6:00 PM. Please review the agenda’s page to determine if a Hearing is scheduled.
What is a Variance?
A Variance is a request to digress from accepted development standards that are prescribed in the Zoning Ordinance. (Refer to Burden of Proof) The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code provides that a Zoning Hearing Board may grant a variance if the following findings are relevant:
1) There are unique physical circumstances or conditions to the property and that the unnecessary hardship is due to such conditions and not the circumstances or conditions generally created by the provisions of the zoning ordinance
2) Because of the physical circumstances/conditions, there is no possibility that the property can be developed in strict conformity with the provisions of the zoning ordinance, and that the variance will enable the reasonable use of the property
3) The unnecessary hardship has not been created by the variance applicant
4) The variance, if granted, will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood that the property is located in, and will not impar the appropriate use or development of adjacent property, and will not be detrimental to the public welfare
5) The variance, if granted, will represent the minimum variance that will afford relief, and will represent the least modification possible of the regulation in issue
Granting of a variance generally constitutes the use, structure, or lot as a nonconformity (a use, structure, or lot that does not conform to applicable zoning ordinance provisions). Nonconformities are to be registered with the Township, and any request to modify a nonconformity will need approval from the Zoning Hearing Board.
What is a Special Exception?
The term “special exception” is something of a misnomer because it is not an exception to a zoning ordinance’s requirements. Instead, a use “by special exception” is a use which is permitted subject to the applicant establishing that the use will comply with certain objective criteria set out in the zoning ordinance for that particular use. A special exception application is decided by the municipality’s zoning hearing board after one or more hearings (McKeon, M. Variances, Special Exceptions, and Conditional Uses: Zoning FAQs for Pennsylvania Property Owners.).
Per the Township’s Zoning Ordinance, the Zoning Hearing Board may attach reasonable conditions and safeguards, when granting a special exception. Refer to burden of proof section.
The special exception may be granted based on evidence that:
- The proposed use, including its nature, intensity and location, is in harmony with the orderly and appropriate development of the zone.
- Adequate water supply, sewage disposal, storm drainage and fire and police protection are or can be provided for the use.
- The use of adjacent land and buildings will not be discouraged, and the value of adjacent land and buildings will not be impaired by the proposed use and/or location, nature and height of buildings, walls and fences.
- The use will have proper location with respect to existing or future streets giving access to it and will not create traffic congestion or cause large amounts of commercial or industrial traffic to use residential streets.
- The specific standards set forth for each particular use for which a special exception may be granted have been met (see Article VI).
- And that in addition to the above general standards, the specific standards for particular uses in Article VI of the Zoning Ordinance must be met prior to granting of the special exception.
A special exception expires if the applicant fails to obtain a building permit or use certificate within 6-moths of the date of granting the special exception.
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof differs depending on the application or appeal before the zoning hearing board.
An applicant for variance is required at the time of the hearing to demonstrate that it meets the criteria set forth in Section 910.2 of the MPC for the grant of a variance. An applicant for use variance also must demonstrate either that (a) the physical conditions of the property are such that it cannot be used for a permitted purpose; (b) the property can be conformed for a permitted use only at a prohibitive expense; or (c) the property is valueless for any purpose permitted by the zoning ordinance. Allegheny West Civic Council, Inc. v Zoning Bd. of Adjustment, 689 A.2d 225 (1997).
An applicant for special exception is required at the time of the hearing to present evidence that it meets the specific or objective criteria and standards of the ordinance for the proposed use as a special exception. It is not sufficient that an applicant promise it would come into compliance with the specific requirements at a future date. However, the applicant for a special exception is not required to demonstrate compliance with any subjective requirement of the ordinance for the proposed use. Rather, those objecting to the application for special exception bear the burden of proof relating to a subjective requirement. Additionally, such objectors must demonstrate that the proposed use will cause harm greater than normal for a use of the type proposed.
On appeal of an enforcement notice, the municipality has the responsibility of presenting its evidence first.
(DCED. 2015. The Zoning Hearing Bard, Planning Series #6).