Zoning ordinances regulate such matters as maximum building heights, lot coverage, and dimensional setbacks. Zoning districts typically include Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Special Use districts, as well as various sub-groups such as Light Industrial, Waterfront, Overlay, and other types of districts. Ever since the United States Supreme Court upheld the concept of zoning in the landmark case of Village of Euclid, Ohio v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365 (1926), zoning law has continued to grow in scope and complexity.
Modern zoning ordinances may allow for mixed use Planned Residential Developments (PRDs), as well as for Transferable Development Rights (TDRs), which involve the sale and separation of development rights from one piece of property (which is then restricted as to development) and their associated transfer to another property, which in turn benefits from the use of the rights conveyed.
We have guided clients through the legislative process for rezoning and zoning amendments. We have also counseled clients in the protection of non-conforming uses. Our attorneys have extensive experience in working with our clients to secure the grant of variances, special exceptions, and conditional use approvals for residential, industrial, and commercial properties.
Broadly speaking, a variance is an exemption from the application of a zoning ordinance, granted by a Zoning Hearing Board under certain circumstances to protect against an undue hardship caused by strict enforcement and application of the zoning ordinance in question.
A special exception is not an exception to the zoning ordinance, but rather a permitted use, which is granted by the Zoning Hearing Board under the applicable legislation, so long as specifically listed standards and requirements are met.
A conditional use is similar to a special exception, except that it is granted by a municipality’s governing body (such as a Board of Commissioners or Board of Supervisors), upon a showing by an applicant that the specifically listed standards and requirements in the legislation have been met.
In other circumstances, we have successfully represented property owners and others with legally enforceable interests to oppose the grant of variances, special exception, conditional uses, or other zoning relief, where the relief sought by the applicant conflicted with, or was not justified under, Pennsylvania zoning law.