Borough of Lansdowne, PA
Delaware County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
The purpose of this article is to list and describe the powers, procedures, composition and standards for the Zoning Hearing Board, as required by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, Act 247, as amended.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: See 53 P.S. § 10101 et seq.
A. 
Appeals from any interpretation of the provisions of this chapter or challenges to its validity shall be heard by a Zoning Hearing Board appointed for this purpose by the Borough Council. Specifically, the Board shall be empowered to do the following, as provided for below:
(1) 
Hear and decide appeals from the decision of the Zoning Officer, subject to the provisions of the Municipalities Planning Code.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: See 53 P.S. § 10101 et seq.
(2) 
Hear and decide requests for variances from the provisions of this chapter, subject to the provisions of the Municipalities Planning Code.
(3) 
Hear and decide requests for special exceptions to the provisions of this chapter, subject to the provisions of the Municipalities Planning Code.
(4) 
Hear and decide or make findings relative to challenges to the validity of this chapter or its map, subject to the provisions of the Municipalities Planning Code.
(5) 
Hear and decide or make findings relative to a unified appeal brought by an applicant who elects to challenge provisions of both this chapter and any other municipal ordinance as it relates to the same development plan or development. The Zoning Hearing Board shall not have the power to pass on the non-zoning matter but shall take evidence and make findings on all relevant issues of fact which shall become part of the record on appeal to the court.
B. 
Organization of the Zoning Hearing Board.
(1) 
The Zoning Hearing board shall consist of five residents of Lansdowne, each appointed for a five-calendar-year term; provided, however, that the initial appointees shall be appointed for such shorter length of term as may be necessary in order for one member's term to expire in each year. The terms shall be arranged so that the term of one member shall expire each year.
[Amended 12-3-2008 by Ord. No. 1237[2]]
[2]
Editor's Note: Section 2 of this ordinance stated "Upon adoption of this ordinance, the members of the existing three-member Zoning Hearing Board shall continue in office for the balance of the three-year term for which they were appointed, and the Council shall be entitled to appoint two new members of the Zoning Hearing Board by resolution with terms scheduled to expire in accordance with Subsection B(1). Thereafter, any person appointed to the Zoning Hearing Board shall be appointed for a five-year term, with the term of office of one member expiring each year."
(2) 
Members of the Zoning Hearing Board may hold no other office in the Borough except that one member may also serve on the Planning Commission.
(3) 
The Zoning Hearing Board shall promptly notify the Borough Council whenever a vacancy occurs among its membership so that it may be promptly filled. The new appointment shall only be to fill the unexpired term of the member who has vacated his or her position.
(4) 
The Zoning Hearing Board shall elect a Chair, Vice Chair and such other officers as it deems necessary from its own membership.
(5) 
A majority of the members shall constitute a quorum. A quorum shall be required to conduct hearings or to take any action; provided, however, that the Board may appoint one of its members to act as a hearing officer to hear a case and to render a decision or findings. The parties may agree to waive all rights to further action by the Zoning Hearing Board.
(6) 
The Zoning Hearing Board shall be bound by the regulations governing its conduct in this chapter, the Municipalities Planning Code[3] and other applicable ordinances of the Borough and laws of the commonwealth. It may make, alter and rescind rules of its own procedure which are not otherwise inconsistent with these ordinances and laws.
[3]
Editor's Note: See 53 P.S. § 10101 et seq.
(7) 
The Zoning Hearing Board shall keep a permanent public record of its proceedings and shall report its activities to the Borough Council. Members may be compensated for their duties at a rate fixed by the Borough Council, but in no case shall that rate exceed the amount to which Council members are entitled.
(8) 
A member of the Zoning Hearing Board may be removed from the Board by the Borough Council for malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in office, or other just cause, subject to the following:
(a) 
The member of the Zoning Hearing Board shall be given at least 15 days' notice of the charges to be brought and of the intent of the Council to vote on the question of removal.
(b) 
The member may request in writing that a hearing be held before the Council on the matter.
(c) 
Removal shall require a majority vote of the Borough Council.
C. 
Hearings shall be conducted within 60 days of the applicant's request for a hearing.
(1) 
Hearings shall be conducted by the Board or by a member of the Board acting as a hearing officer as described above.
(2) 
The parties to the hearing shall be the Borough, any person affected by the application who has made timely appearance of record before the Board and any other person including civic or community organizations permitted to appear by the Board. The Board may require that all persons wishing to be considered parties enter appearances in writing on forms provided by the Board for that purpose.
(3) 
The Chair, Acting Chair or hearing officer shall have the power to administer oaths and to issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of relevant documents and papers, including witnesses and documents requested by the parties.
(4) 
The parties shall have the right to be represented by counsel and shall be afforded the opportunity to respond and present evidence and argument and cross examine adverse witnesses on relevant issues.
(5) 
Formal rules of evidence shall not apply, but irrelevant, immaterial or unduly repetitious evidence may be excluded.
(6) 
The Board or hearing officer, as the case may be, shall keep a stenographic record of the proceedings. A transcript of the proceedings and copies of graphic or written material received in evidence shall be made available to any party at cost.
(7) 
The Board or the hearing officer shall not:
(a) 
Communicate, directly or indirectly, with any party or a representative of any party in connection with any issue involved except upon notice and opportunity for all parties to participate.
(b) 
Take notice of any communication, reports, staff memoranda or other materials unless the parties are afforded an opportunity to contest the material so noticed.
(c) 
Inspect the site or its surroundings after the commencement of hearings with any party or the representative of any party unless all parties are given an opportunity to be present.
D. 
Decisions.
(1) 
The Board or hearing officer, as the case may be, shall render a written decision or, where no decision is required, make written findings within 45 days after the last hearing.
(2) 
Where the application is contested or denied, each decision shall be accompanied by findings of fact, conclusions based upon the findings of fact and the reasons for the action taken. References to provisions in this chapter or any other ordinance or law shall be given together with the reasons that the conclusion is deemed appropriate in light of the evidence presented.
(3) 
If the hearing is conducted by a hearing officer and there is no stipulation that his or her decision or findings are final, the Board shall make his or her report and recommendations available to all parties and the parties shall be entitled to make written representations thereon to the Board prior to the final decision or entry of findings and the Board's decision shall be entered no later than 45 days after the decision of the hearing officer.
(4) 
If the Board fails to conduct a hearing within 60 days of the date of application for a hearing or fails to render a decision within the period required, the decision shall be deemed to have been rendered in favor of the applicant unless the applicant has agreed in writing to an extension of time.
(a) 
When a decision has been rendered in favor of the applicant because of a failure of the Board to meet or render a decision as herein provided, the Borough shall give notice of the decision in the same manner as provided for in Subsection D(4)(c).
(b) 
Nothing herein shall prejudice the right of any party opposing the application to urge that such a decision is erroneous.
(c) 
A copy of the final decision or, where no decision is called for, of the findings shall be delivered to the applicant personally or mailed to him or her not later than the day following its date. The Board shall also provide a brief notice of the decision or findings to all other persons who have filed their name with the Board for that purpose, together with the location of the place where the full decision may be examined.
A. 
Special exceptions. A special exception may be granted by the Zoning Hearing Board only in those instances where the potential for a special exception is specifically indicated by this chapter. A special exception may be granted only after the Board finds that the request complies with all applicable standards and criteria specified elsewhere in this chapter relating to special exception and in addition finds that the request is in accord with the general intent of the Zoning Ordinance, and:
(1) 
Is not harmful to the health, safety and general welfare of the neighborhood;
(2) 
Is suitable for the property in question and designed, constructed, operated and maintained so as to be in harmony with and appropriate in appearance to the existing or intended future character of the general vicinity;
(3) 
Is in conformity with all applicable requirements of this chapter without the need for additional variances;
(4) 
Does not create unreasonable traffic conditions or lead to undue congestion and does not create street access that is inappropriate for the use intended;
(5) 
Is designed in such a manner as to be respectful of the natural environment and not cause avoidable environmental damage;
(6) 
Is suitable for the proposed location and does not place an undue burden upon public services, including police and fire protection, public water and sewers and public schools; and
(7) 
Is not based on financial hardship or conditions created by the applicant.
B. 
In granting a special exception, the Board may attach any reasonable safeguards, conditions or restrictions which it may deem necessary to implement the purposes and conditions of this chapter.
Any person obtaining a special exception or variance from the Zoning Hearing Board or by final, unappealable order of any court shall commence use or construction of the property for which such special exception or variance was obtained within one year following the date of the order of the Zoning Hearing Board or court; provided, however, that the Zoning Officer may issue extension beyond the one-year period if the Zoning Officer finds good cause therefor. If a landowner fails to comply with this timing requirement, the landowner shall not be permitted to use the premises or commence any construction or alterations in furtherance of such special exception or variance, and the Building Inspector may not issue a building permit in furtherance thereof, and it shall be necessary for the landowner to apply again to the Zoning Hearing Board for a special exception or variance the same as if no special exception or variance had been granted.