Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

1644 Posts and Counting

Zoning: Interesting Opinion on Failure of Municipality to Enforce its Setback Requirements.

No. 1,337 Mr. Justice Musmanno wrote an entertaining opinion in 1963 on a zoning case in which the homeowner replaced a stoop and small overhang with a larger concrete slab and awning.  The concrete slab and overhang, as it turned out, had been in violation of the setback ordinance which existed at the time of […]

Zoning: Expansion of Non-conforming Use and Dimensional Variance

A nonconforming use may be expanded by special exception under an appropriate ordinance from a deli to a restaurant and a reasonable dimensional variance may be granted to effectuate the change.

Zoning Variance: Hardship Proven When Sound Barrier on Interstate Highway Blocked View of Advertising Sign.

Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. owned a double-sided illuminated billboard in the City of Philadelphia in an industrial zone which had been erected as a matter of right a some years before and was now a nonconforming use. The sign was intended to be seen by both northbound and southbound traffic on Interstate 95.

Zoning: The Burden of Proof for Special Exception is Less than a Variance.

“A special exception use is a permitted use to which an applicant is entitled if it meets the objective standards in the zoning ordinance. Union Township v. Ethan Michael, Inc., 979 A.2d 431, 437 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2009). The applicant bears the burden of production and persuasion to prove that the proposed use meets the special exception requirements. Greaton Properties, Inc. v. Lower Merion Township, 796 A.2d 1038, 1045 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2002). Once the applicant’s burden is satisfied, a presumption arises that the use is consistent with the health, safety and welfare of the community. Id. at 1045-46. The burden then shifts to the objectors to prove that the proposed use will have a generally detrimental effect on the public health, safety and welfare. Id. at 1046.”

Zoning: Lack of Standing Must Be Raised at Zoning Hearing Board Level or it is Waived.

No. 1,035 John Scott v. City of Philadelphia, Zoning Board of Adjustment and FT Holdings L.P.,No. 154 C. D. 2013 (Commonwealth Court). FT Holdings, L. P. appealed the denial of a permit to build a proposed condominium structure to a greater height than permitted by the zoning ordinance. John Scott appeared through an attorney at […]

“Not in my Neighborhood” — Methadone Clinic is a Permitted Use as a Medical Office

A group of neighbors appealed the decision of a Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge reversing the ruling of the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment that denied THW Group, LLC a zoning use permit for operation of a methadone clinic.

Commonwealth Court Ruling on Act 13 Oil and Gas Regulation is Not the Last Word.

No. 894 On July 26, 2012, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court decided a Constitutional challenge to Act 13, the latest legislative attempt to regulate the booming oil and gas industry.  By a 4-3 vote it found certain provisions of the statute unconstitutional. See Robinson Township et al. v. Commonwealth, No. 248 MD 2012, not yet found […]

Commonwealth Court: variance under Hertzberg still requires hardship of the property, not the person.

The standards for granting a variance are quite strict, but many continue to think that the relaxation of the rules for a dimensional variance under Hertzberg v. Zoning Board of Adjustment, 554 Pa. 249, 721 A.2d 43 (1998), gives them more than the Commonwealth Court will allow.

Small Task, Big Damages

Those of us who have zoning practice are required to do it all of the time: make a list of the names and addresses of all property owners whose land is adjacent to the property in question. Not too difficult. Yes, you should include properties across the street. And if the tax map shows properties almost touching, include them too. But other than that, its just a little map reading exercise.


CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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