[Ord. 1968, 9/8/2003, § 900]
The Pottstown Zoning Hearing Board is created by this Chapter to help ensure it is administered fairly and equitably.
The board shall hear any appeals of determinations by the Zoning Officer. It may also grant relief in the form of a variance if the literal enforcement of this Chapter causes undue hardship in certain situations. In some circumstances, the Zoning Hearing Board shall also hear challenges to the validity of this Chapter and hear applications for Special Exceptions.
DETAILS. For a detailed exposition of this Part, see Zoning Appendix A9, Sections A900 through A910, located at the end of this Chapter.
[Ord. 1968, 9/8/2003, § 901]
The Pottstown Zoning Hearing Board shall consist of three residents of the Borough appointed by Pottstown Council.
The Zoning Officer shall serve as secretary of the Board.
Borough Council may appoint, by resolution, at least one, but no more than three, Borough residents to serve as alternate members of the Board. If for any reason the Zoning Hearing Board lacks a quorum, the Chairman of the Board shall appoint alternate members as needed to create a quorum. These members shall participate in all proceedings and discussions of the Board until the matter for which they were appointed is resolved.
[Ord. 1968, 9/8/2003, § 902]
Variances may be requested by property owners or tenants, with the property owner's permission, for the property they own or rent. Appeals of a ruling of the Zoning Officer may be made by any affected resident or property owner, even if he does not own the property in question.
The Zoning Officer shall forward the application, which is subject to a fee set by Borough Council, to the Zoning Hearing Board.
[Ord. 1968, 9/8/2003, § 903]
No person shall be allowed to file an appeal with the Board later than 30 days after an application for development, either preliminary or final, has been approved by an appropriate Borough officer or body.
All appeals from determinations adverse to the landowner shall be filed by the landowner within 30 days after notice of the determination is issued.
After a permit has been authorized by the Zoning Hearing Board, a permit must be applied for within 12 months or the authorization expires. If the application fails to comply with the conditions of the authorized permit within 12 months, the authorization expires.
[Ord. 1968, 9/8/2003, § 904]
Within 60 days of an applicant's request, the Zoning Hearing Board shall conduct properly advertised public hearings, which includes:
Placing notices in a newspaper of general circulation.
Mailing a notice to the property owner, and, at the discretion of the Zoning Officer, to the occupant of every property within 300 feet of the lot in question.
Giving notice to the appellant, Zoning Officer, Planning Commission, and Borough Council.
Mailing a notice to every resident who has formally registered interest in the case.
Posting a notice conspicuously on the affected tract of land at least one week in advance of the hearing.
[Ord. 1968, 9/8/2003, § 905]
For the conduct of any hearing and making a decision, a quorum shall be not less than a majority of all members of the Board. If for some reason there are not enough members for a quorum, the chairman of the Zoning Hearing Board shall appoint one or more alternates to achieve a quorum.
The parties shall have the right to be represented by counsel and shall be allowed to respond, to present evidence and argument, and to cross-examine adverse witnesses on all relevant issues.
Formal rules of evidence shall not apply, but evidence that is irrelevant, immaterial, or unduly repetitious may be excluded.
The chairman or acting chairman shall have the power to administer oaths and issue subpoenas and to compel the attendance of witnesses. This power extends to requiring the production of relevant documents and papers including witnesses and documents requested by the parties.
The Board shall keep a stenographic record of the proceedings, the cost of which shall be shared equally by the applicant and the Board.
The Board shall not communicate with any party or representatives in connection with any issue involved, unless all parties are given a chance to participate. The Board shall not visit the site with any one party.
The Board shall issue a written decision within 45 days after the last hearing before the Board. If no decision is needed, written findings will be issued.
Where the application is contested or denied, each decision shall be accompanied by findings of fact and conclusions based on the findings of fact. Conclusions based on this Chapter or any other law shall include a reference to the appropriate provisions.
A decision or findings by the Board shall be by a majority of the members. A tie vote shall be deemed a denial of appeal.
When the Board fails to render a decision within the period required by this Chapter, and/or fails to hold the required hearing within 60 days of the filing of the application, the decision shall be deemed to have been rendered in favor of the applicant, unless the applicant formally gives an extension.
A copy of the final decision, or if no decision is needed, the findings of fact, shall be mailed to the applicant after the decision is made. Other parties shall receive a brief notice of the decision, or findings, and a statement identifying the place where the full decision may be reviewed.
[Ord. 1968, 9/8/2003, § 906]
The Board shall hear requests for variances where it is alleged that the provisions of this Chapter inflict unnecessary hardship upon the applicant. The Board may grant a variance, provided all of the following findings are made (where relevant) in a given case:
That there are unique physical circumstances or conditions, including irregularity, narrowness, or shallowness of lot size or shape, or exceptional topographical or other physical conditions peculiar to the particular property. That the unnecessary hardship is due to these conditions and not the circumstances or conditions created in the neighborhood or district in which the property is located.
That, because of such physical circumstances or conditions, there is no possibility that the property can be developed in strict conformity with the provisions of this Chapter, and that a variance is necessary to allow the reasonable use of the property.
That the hardship has not been created by the appellant or his predecessors.
That the variance, if authorized, will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood or district in which the property is located, nor impair substantially or permanently the appropriate use or development of adjacent property, nor be detrimental to the public welfare.
That the variance, if authorized, will represent the minimum variance that will afford relief and will represent the least modification possible of the regulation involved.
In granting any variance, the Board may attach such reasonable conditions and safeguards as it may deem necessary to implement the purpose of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code and this Chapter.
[Ord. 1968, 9/8/2003, § 907]
In order not to delay unreasonably the time when a landowner may secure assurance that the Ordinance or map under which he proposes to build is free from challenge, and recognizing that the procedure for preliminary approval of his development may be too cumbersome or may be unavailable, the landowner may advance the date from which time any challenge to the Ordinance or map will be filed:
The landowner may submit plans and other materials describing his proposed use or development to the Zoning Officer for a preliminary opinion as to their compliance with the applicable ordinances and maps. Such plans and other materials shall not be required to meet the standards prescribed for preliminary, tentative, or final approval or for the issuance of a building permit so long as they provide reasonable notice of the proposed use or development, and provide a sufficient basis for a preliminary opinion as to its compliance.
If the Zoning Officer's preliminary opinion is that the use or development complies with the ordinance or map, notice thereof shall be published once each week for two successive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the Borough. Such notice shall include:
The favorable preliminary approval and the time specified in them for commencing a proceeding with the Board shall run from the time when the second notice thereof has been published.
[Ord. 1968, 9/8/2003, § 908]
A landowner who, on substantive grounds, desires to challenge the validity of this Chapter or any other ordinance or map or any provision of an ordinance that prohibits or restricts the use or development of land in which he has an interest shall submit the challenge either:
[Ord. 1968, 9/8/2003, § 909]
Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed to deny an appellant the right to proceed directly to court where appropriate under state law.