The Township Board of Commissioners shall and hereby does create a Zoning Hearing Board. Unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, the term "Board" shall refer to such Zoning Hearing Board.
Jurisdiction shall be in conformance with Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code Section 909.1.
Editor's Note: See 53 P.S. § 10909.1.
The membership of the Board shall consist of three residents of the Township appointed by the Township Board of Commissioners. Their terms of office shall be three years and shall be so fixed that the term of office of one member shall expire each year. The Board shall promptly notify the Township Board of Commissioners of any vacancies which occur. Appointments to fill vacancies shall be only for the unexpired portion of the term. Members of the Board shall hold no other elected or appointed office in the municipality, nor shall any member be an employee of the municipality.
The Township Board of Commissioners may appoint by resolution at least one but no more than three residents of the Township to serve as alternate members of the Zoning Hearing Board. Alternates shall serve three-year terms and shall be entitled to participate in all proceedings and discussions and to cast a vote if designated as a voting alternate member. Alternates shall hold no other elected or appointed office in the municipality, including service as a member of the Planning Commission or Zoning Officer, nor shall any alternate be an employee of the municipality.
Any Board member or alternate may be removed for malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in office or for other just cause by a majority vote of the Township Board of Commissioners taken after the member has received 15 days' advance notice of the intent to take such a vote. A hearing shall be held in connection with the vote if the member shall request it in writing.
Organization of the Board shall conform to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code.
Within the limits of funds appropriated by Township Board of Commissioners, the Board may employ or contract for secretaries, clerks, legal counsel, consultants and other technical and clerical services. Members of the Board may receive compensation for the performance of their duties, as may be fixed by the Township Board of Commissioners, but in no case shall it exceed the rate of compensation authorized to be paid to the members of the Township Board of Commissioners.
Hearings shall be conducted in conformance with the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code.
Parties before the Board may utilize mediation as an aid in completing such proceedings. Mediation shall supplement, not replace, those procedures outlined in this article and shall not be interpreted as expanding or limiting municipal police powers. Participation shall be voluntary and be determined by the willingness of parties to negotiate. Terms and conditions of mediation are as follows:
Parties must establish a method of funding of the mediation;
The selected mediator shall have a working knowledge of municipal zoning and subdivision procedures and demonstrate skills in mediation;
A time limit for completion or for suspending mediation must be agreed upon;
Suspension of time limits otherwise authorized by this article, provided there is written consent by the mediating parties and by the applicant or Zoning Hearing Board if either is not a party at the mediation, may be agreed upon;
All parties must be identified and afforded an opportunity to participate;
Subject to legal restraints, parties shall determine whether some or all mediation sessions are open or closed to the public;
Mediated solutions shall be in writing, signed by participating parties, and become subject to review and approval by the Zoning Hearing Board pursuant to procedures set forth in this article;
No offers or statements made in other than the final written mediated agreement shall be admissible as evidence in any subsequent judicial or administrative proceedings.
The Board shall hear challenges to the validity of a zoning ordinance amendment within 30 days after the effective date of such ordinance or amendment or map, except as otherwise provided by law. In all such challenges, the Board shall take evidence and make a record thereon as provided by the applicable provisions of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, as it may be amended from time to time. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board shall decide all contested questions and shall make findings on all relevant issues of fact, which shall become part of the record on appeal to the court.
The Board shall hear requests for variances where it is alleged that the provisions of this chapter or the provisions of Chapter 200, Floodplain Management, inflict unnecessary hardship upon the applicant. The Board may by rule prescribe the form of application and may require a preliminary application to the Zoning Officer. 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 area or shape, or exceptional topographical or other physical conditions peculiar to the particular property, and that the unnecessary hardship is due to such conditions and not the circumstances or conditions generally created by the provisions of this chapter 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 the authorization of a variance is therefore necessary to enable the reasonable use of the property;
That such unnecessary hardship has not been created by the appellant;
That the variance, if authorized, will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood or district in which the property is located, nor substantially or permanently impair the appropriate use or development of adjacent property, nor be detrimental to the public welfare; and
That the variance, if authorized, will represent the minimum variance that will afford relief and will represent the least modification possible of the regulations in issue.
In granting any variance, the Board may attach such reasonable conditions and safeguards as it may deem necessary to implement the purposes of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, as it may be amended from time to time, and of this chapter.
Appeals under 53 P.S. § 10909.1(a)(1), (3), (4), (7), (8) and (9) may be filed with the Board in writing by the landowner affected, any officer or agency of the Township, or any person aggrieved. Requests for a variance under § 400-109 hereof may be filed with the Board by any landowner or any tenant of a landowner with the permission of such landowner.
The time limitations for initiating certain proceedings with the Board shall be in accordance with the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code.
Upon filing of any proceeding, and during its pendency before the Board, all land development pursuant to any challenged ordinance, order or approval of the Zoning Officer or of any agency or body and all official action thereunder shall be stayed unless the Zoning Officer or any other appropriate agency or body certifies to the Board facts indicating that such stay would cause imminent peril to life or property, in which case the development or official action shall not be stayed otherwise than by a restraining order, which may be granted by the Board or by the court having jurisdiction of zoning appeals on petition after notice to the Zoning Officer or any other appropriate agency or body. When an application for development, preliminary or final, has been duly approved and proceedings designed to reverse or limit the approval are filed with the Board by persons other than the applicant, the applicant may petition the court having jurisdiction of zoning appeals to order such persons to post bond as a condition to continuing the proceeding before the Board. The question whether or not such petition should be granted and the amount of the bond shall be within the sound discretion of the court.