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Township of Unity, PA
Westmoreland County
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A. 
Appointment and duties. The Supervisors shall appoint a Zoning Hearing Board, which shall adopt rules to govern its procedures. The Zoning Hearing Board shall hold meetings, keep minutes and, pursuant to required public notice, conduct hearings, compel the attendance of witnesses, take testimony under oath and render decisions in writing, as required by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code. A fee shall be charged in accordance with a schedule established by resolution of the Board of Supervisors for any appeal or proceeding before the Zoning Hearing Board. The Zoning Hearing Board shall have the functions, powers, duties and obligations specifically granted by law.
B. 
Appeals from the Zoning Officer. The Zoning Hearing Board shall hear and decide appeals where it is alleged that the Zoning Officer has failed to follow prescribed procedures or has misinterpreted or misapplied any provision of this chapter or of the District Map or any valid rule or regulation governing the action of the Zoning Officer. Appeals from decisions or interpretations of the Zoning Officer may be made by landowners, developers or persons aggrieved and may relate to such subject matter as to whether a permit, enforcement notice, notice of violation or stop-work order under this chapter should be issued. All appeals to the Zoning Hearing Board from any determination of the Zoning Officer shall be filed with the Zoning Hearing Board within 20 days of the date the determination is issued.
C. 
Challenges to the validity of this chapter. The Zoning Hearing Board shall hear challenges to the validity of this chapter or map raising substantive questions as permitted by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code and/or the case law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania existing at the time the appeal is filed.
D. 
Variances. The Zoning Hearing Board shall hear requests for variances where it is alleged that the provisions of this chapter inflict unnecessary hardship upon the property of the applicant. In granting any variance, the Board may attach such reasonable conditions and safeguards as it may deem necessary to implement the purposes of this chapter. The Hearing Board may grant a variance, provided that the following findings are made, where relevant, in a given case:
(1) 
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 and that the unnecessary hardship is due to such conditions and not the circumstances or conditions generally created by the provisions of this Chapter 118, Zoning, in the district in which the property is located.
(2) 
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 such property.
(3) 
That such unnecessary hardship has not been created by the appellant.
(4) 
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.
(5) 
That the variance, if authorized, will represent the minimum variance that will afford relief and will represent the least modification possible of the regulation in issue.
(6) 
In considering applications for variances in the airport overlay district, the Zoning Hearing Board shall not consider any application unless a copy of the application has been furnished by the applicant to the airport manager for comment on the impact of the application on the airport overlay district. The applicant shall provide the Zoning Hearing Board with evidence that the airport manager has received a copy of the application at least 15 days prior to the hearing before the Zoning Hearing Board. If the airport manager does not respond to the application within 15 days after receipt, the Zoning Hearing Board may act on its own to grant or deny said application.
E. 
Special exceptions. The Zoning Hearing Board shall hear and decide all requests for special exceptions made under this chapter. In granting any special exception request, the Board may attach such reasonable conditions and safeguards as it may deem necessary to implement the purposes of this chapter.
F. 
Stay of proceedings. The filing of proceedings before the Zoning Hearing Board appealing a determination of the Zoning Officer, challenging an ordinance or requesting a variance or special exception shall stay any further action by the Township pending disposition of the matter before the Zoning Hearing Board unless the activity on the property, and the stay of Township action, would adversely affect the public health, safety or welfare.
G. 
Hearings. The Zoning Hearing Board shall conduct hearings and make decisions in accordance with the following requirements:
(1) 
Notice shall be given to the public, the applicant, and to any person who has made timely request for the same. Notices shall be given at such time and in such manner as shall be prescribed by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code.
(2) 
The hearing shall be conducted by the Hearing Board, or the Hearing Board may appoint any member or alternate member as a hearing officer.
(3) 
The parties to the hearing shall be the Township, any person affected by the application who has made timely appearance of record before the Zoning Hearing Board and any other person, including civic or community organizations permitted to appear by the Zoning Hearing Board.
(4) 
The Chairman or Acting Chairman of the Hearing Board or the hearing officer presiding shall have power to administer oaths and issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of relevant documents and papers, including witnesses and documents requested by the parties.
(5) 
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 all relevant issues.
(6) 
Formal rules of evidence shall not apply, but irrelevant, immaterial or unduly repetitious evidence may be excluded.
(7) 
The Zoning Hearing Board or hearing officer, as the case may be, shall keep a stenographic record of the proceedings, and a transcript of the proceedings and copies of graphic or written material received in evidence shall be made available to any party at cost. The appearance fee for a stenographer shall be shared equally by the applicant and the Zoning Hearing Board. The cost of the original transcript shall be paid by the party ordering it.
(8) 
The members of the Zoning Hearing Board or hearing officer shall not communicate directly or indirectly with any party or his representative in connection with any issue involved, except upon notice and opportunity for all parties to participate, shall not take notice of any communication, report, staff memoranda or other materials unless parties are afforded an opportunity to contest the materials so noticed and shall not inspect the site or its surroundings after the commencement of hearings with any party or his representative unless all parties are given an opportunity to be present.
(9) 
The Zoning Hearing Board or the hearing officer, as the case may be, shall render a written decision or, when no decision is called for, make written findings on the application within 45 days after the last hearing before the Hearing Board or hearing officer. Where the Hearing Board fails to render the decision within 45 days after the last hearing before the Hearing Board or hearing officer or fails to hold the required hearing on the application within 60 days from the date of the applicant's request for hearing, 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. When a decision has been rendered in favor of the applicant because of the failure of the Hearing Board to meet or render a decision as hereinabove provided, the Township shall give public notice of said decision within 10 days in the same manner as provided in Subsection G(1) above.
(10) 
A copy of the final decision or, where no decision is called for, of the findings shall be delivered to the applicant and to all other persons who have filed their names and addresses with the Hearing Board personally or by mail not later than the day following its date.
H. 
Appeals. Any person with standing who is aggrieved by the decision of the Board may file an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, consistent with the provisions of the Municipalities Planning Code and case law existing at the time the appeal is filed.