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Township of Ross, PA
Allegheny County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Ord. 2035, 12/9/2002, § 600; as amended by Ord. 2288, 4/12/2010]
1. 
There is hereby created for the Township a Zoning Hearing Board in accordance with the provisions of Article IX of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, 53 P.S. § 10901 et seq.
2. 
The membership of the Board shall consist of five residents of Ross Township appointed by resolution by the Board of Commissioners. The terms of office shall be for five years and shall be so fixed that the term of office of one member shall expire each year. The Zoning Hearing Board shall promptly notify the Board of Commissioners of any vacancies which occur. Appointments to fill vacancies shall be only for the unexplored portion of the term. Members of the Zoning Hearing Board shall hold no other elected or appointed office in Ross Township nor shall any member be an employee of the Township.
3. 
The Board of Commissioners of Ross Township may, by resolution, appoint at least one but no more than three residents of Ross Township to serve as alternates members of the Zoning Hearing Board. The term of office of an alternate member shall be three years. When seated pursuant to § 906 of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, 53 P.S. § 10906, an alternate shall be entitled to participate in all proceedings and discussions of the Zoning Hearing Board to the same and full extent as provided by law for Zoning Hearing Board members including specifically, but not being limited to, the right to cast a vote as a voting member during the proceedings and shall have all of the powers and duties set forth in the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, 53 P.S. § 10101 et seq., and the Ross Township Code. Alternates shall hold no other elected or appointed office in the Township including service as a member of the Planning Commission or as a Zoning Officer, nor shall any alternate be an employee of the Township. Any alternate may participate in any proceeding or discussion of the Zoning Hearing but shall not be entitled to vote as a member of the Board nor be compensated pursuant to § 907 of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, 53 P.S. § 10907, unless designated as a voting alternate member pursuant to § 906 of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, 53 P.S. § 10906.
4. 
Any Board member may be removed for malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in office or for other just cause by a majority vote of the Board of Commissioners which appointed the member, 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.
5. 
The Board shall elect from its own membership its officers, who shall serve annual terms as such and may succeed themselves. For the conduct of any hearing and the taking of any action a quorum shall be not less than a majority of all the members of the Board, but the Board may appoint a hearing officer from its own membership to conduct any hearing on its behalf and the parties may waive further action by the Board as provided in this chapter.
6. 
If, by reason of absence or disqualification of a member, a quorum is not reached, the chairman of the Zoning Hearing Board, shall designate as many alternate members of the Zoning Hearing Board to sit on the Board as may be needed to provide a quorum. Any alternate member of the Zoning Hearing Board shall continue to serve on the Board in all proceedings involving the matter or case for which the alternate was initially appointed until the Zoning Hearing Board has made a final determination of the matter or case. Designation of an alternate pursuant to this section shall be made on a case by case basis in rotation according to declining seniority among all alternates.
7. 
The Board may make, alter and rescind rules and forms for its procedure, consistent with ordinances of the Township and laws of the commonwealth. The Board shall keep full public records of its business, which records shall be the property of the Township and shall submit a report of its activities to the Board of Commissioners as requested by the Board of Commissioners.
8. 
Within the limits of funds appropriated by the 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 Board of Commissioners, but in no case shall it exceed the rate of compensation authorized to be paid to the members of the Board of Commissioners.
[Ord. 2035, 12/9/2002, § 601; as amended by Ord. 2288, 4/12/2010]
1. 
The Zoning Hearing Board shall conduct hearings and made decisions in accordance with the following requirements:
A. 
Public notice shall be given and written notice shall be given to the applicant, the Zoning Officer and to any person who has made timely request for the same. Written notices shall be given at such time and in such manner as shall be prescribed by rules of the Board. In addition to the written notice provided herein, written notice of said hearing shall be conspicuously posted on the affected tract of land at least one week prior to the hearing.
B. 
The first hearing before the Board or hearing officer shall be commenced within 60 days from the date of receipt of the applicant's application, unless the applicant has agreed in writing to an extension of time. Each subsequent hearing before the Board or hearing officer shall be held within 45 days of the prior hearing, unless otherwise agreed to by the applicant in writing or on the record. An applicant shall complete the presentation of his case-in-chief within 100 days of the first hearing. Upon the request of the applicant, the Board or hearing officer shall assure that the applicant receives at least seven hours of hearings within the 100 days, including the first hearing. Persons opposed to the application shall complete the presentation of their opposition to the application within 100 days of the first hearing held after the completion of the applicant's case-in-chief. An applicant may, upon request, be granted additional hearings to complete his case-in-chief provided the persons opposed to the application are granted an equal number of additional hearings. Persons opposed to the application may, upon the written consent or consent on the record by the applicant and Township, be granted additional hearings to complete their opposition to the application provided the applicant is granted an equal number of additional hearings for rebuttal.
C. 
The hearings shall be conducted by the Board or the Board may appoint any member or an independent attorney as a hearing officer. The decision, or, where no decision is called for, the findings, shall be made by the Board; however, the appellant or the applicant, as the case may be, in addition to the Township, may, prior to the decision of the hearing, waive decision or findings by the board and accept the decision or findings of the hearing officer as final.
D. 
The parties to the hearing shall be the Township, 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 shall have power to require that all persons who wish to be considered parties enter appearances in writing on forms provided by the Board for that purpose.
E. 
The chairman or acting chairman of the 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.
F. 
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.
G. 
Formal rules of evidence shall not apply, but irrelevant, immaterial, or unduly repetitious evidence may be excluded.
H. 
The Board or the hearing officer, as the case may be, shall keep a stenographic record of the proceedings. The appearance fee for a stenographer shall be shared equally by the applicant and the Board. The cost of the original transcript shall be paid by the Board if the transcript is ordered by the Board or hearing officer or shall be paid by the person appealing from the decision of the Board if such appeal is made, and in either event the cost of additional copies shall be paid by the person requesting such copy or copies. In other cases the party requesting the original transcript shall bear the cost thereof.
I. 
The Board or the hearing officer shall not communicate, directly or indirectly, with any party or his representatives in connection with any issue involved except upon notice and opportunity for all parties to participate, shall not take notice of any communication, reports, staff memoranda, or other materials, except advice from their solicitor, unless the parties are afforded an opportunity to contest the material 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.
J. 
(1) 
The 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 Board or hearing officer. Where the application is contested or denied, each decision shall be accompanied by findings of fact and conclusions of law based thereon together with the reasons therefore. Conclusions based on any provisions of this chapter or of any law, ordinance, rule or regulation shall contain a reference to the provision relied on and the reasons why the conclusion is deemed appropriate in the light of the facts found. If the hearing is conducted by a hearing officer, and there has been no stipulation that his decision or findings are final, the Board shall make his report and recommendations available to the parties within 45 days and the parties shall be entitled to make written representations thereon to the Board prior to final decision or entry of findings, and the Board's decision shall be entered no later than 30 days after the report of the hearing officer.
(2) 
Except for challenges filed under the Municipalities Planning Code, § 916.1, 53 P.S. § 10916.1, where the Board fails to render the decision within the period required by this subsection or fails to commence, conduct or complete the required hearing as provided in the Municipalities Planning Code, § 908(1.2), 53 P.S. § 10908(1.2), or fails to hold the required hearing within 60 days from the date of the applicant's request for a hearing, the decision shall be deemed to have been rendered in favor of the applicant unless the applicant has agreed in writing or on the record to an extension of time. When a decision has been rendered in favor of the applicant because of the failure of the Board to meet or render a decision as hereinabove provided, the Board shall give public notice of the said decision within 10 days from the last day it could have met to render a decision in the same manner as provided in Subsection 1 of this section. If the Board shall fail to provide such notice, the applicant may do so. Nothing in this subsection shall prejudice the right of any party opposing the application to appeal the decision to a court of competent jurisdiction.
K. 
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 not later than the day following its date. To all other persons who have filed their name and address with the Board not later than the last day of the hearing, the Board shall provide by mail or otherwise, brief notice of the decision or findings and a statement of the place at which the full decision or findings may be examined.
L. 
The Board of Commissioners shall establish, by resolution, fees with respect to hearings before the Zoning Hearing Board.
[Ord. 2035, 12/9/2002, § 602]
1. 
Parties to proceedings authorized in this chapter may utilize mediation as an aid in completing such proceedings. In proceedings before the Zoning Hearing Board, in no case shall the Zoning Hearing Board initiate mediation or participate as a mediating party. Mediation shall supplement, not replace, those procedures in this chapter once they have been formally initiated. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as expanding or limiting police powers or as modifying any principles of substantive law.
2. 
Participation in mediation shall be wholly voluntary. The appropriateness of mediation shall be determined by the particulars of each case and the willingness of the parties to negotiate. Any municipality offering the mediation option shall assure that, in each case, the mediating parties, assisted by the mediator as appropriate, develop terms and conditions for:
A. 
Funding mediation.
B. 
Selecting a mediator who, at a minimum, shall have a working knowledge of municipal zoning and subdivision procedures and demonstrated skills in mediation.
C. 
Completing mediation, including time limits for such completion.
D. 
Suspending time limits otherwise authorized in this act, provided there is written consent by the mediating parties, and by an applicant or municipal decision making body if either is not a party to the mediation.
E. 
Identifying all parties and affording them the opportunity to participate.
F. 
Subject to legal restraints, determining whether some or all of the mediation sessions shall be open or closed to the public.
G. 
Assuring that mediated solutions are in writing and signed by the parties, and become subject to review and approval by the appropriate decision-making body pursuant to the authorized procedures set forth in the other sections in this chapter.
3. 
No offers or statements made in the mediation sessions, excluding the final written mediated agreement, shall be admissible as evidence in any subsequent judicial or administrative proceedings.
[Ord. 2035, 12/9/2002, § 603; as amended by Ord. 2288, 4/12/2010]
1. 
The Zoning Hearing Board shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and render final adjudications in the following matters:
A. 
Substantive challenges to the validity of any land use ordinance, except those brought before the Board of Commissioners pursuant to §§ 609.1 and 916.1(a)(2) of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (hereinafter "MPC"), 53 P.S. §§ 10609.1, 10916.1(a)(2).
B. 
Appeals from the determination of the Zoning Officer including, but not limited to, the granting or denial of any permit, or failure to act on the application therefor, the issuance of any cease and desist order or the registration or refusal to register any nonconforming use, structure or lot.
C. 
Appeals from a determination by the Township Engineer or the Zoning Officer with reference to the administration of any floodplain or flood hazard ordinance or such provisions within a land use ordinance.
D. 
Applications for variances from the terms of this chapter and flood hazard ordinance or such provisions within a land use ordinance, pursuant to § 910.2 of the MPC, 53 P.S. § 10910.2.
E. 
Applications for special exceptions under this chapter or floodplain or flood hazard ordinance or such provisions within a land use ordinance, pursuant to § 912.1 of the MPC, 53 P.S. § 10912.1.
F. 
Appeals from the determination of any officer or agency charged with the administration of any transfers of development rights or performance density provisions of this chapter.
G. 
Appeals from the Zoning Officer's determination under § 916.2 of the MPC, 53 P.S. § 10916.2.
H. 
Appeals from the determination of the Zoning Officer or Township Engineer in the administration of any land use ordinance or provision thereof with reference to sedimentation and erosion control and stormwater management insofar as the same relate to development not involving applications under Article V or VII of the MPC, 53 P.S. §§ 10501 et seq., 10701 et seq.
2. 
The Board of Commissioners shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and render final adjudications in the following matters:
A. 
(Reserved)[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: Former Subsection A, regarding planned residential developments, was repealed 8/1/2016 by Ord. No. 2371.
B. 
All applications pursuant to § 508 of the MPC, 53 P.S. § 10508, for approval of subdivisions or land developments under Article V of the MPC, 53 P.S. § 10501 et seq.
C. 
Applications for conditional use under the express provisions of this chapter.
D. 
Applications for curative amendment to this chapter or pursuant to §§ 609.1 and 916.1(a)(2) of the MPC, 53 P.S. §§ 10609.1, 10916.1(a)(2).
E. 
All petitions for amendments to land use ordinances, pursuant to the procedures set forth in § 609 of the MPC, 53 P.S. § 10609.
F. 
Appeals from the determination of the Zoning Officer or the Township Engineer in the administration of any land use ordinance or provisions thereof with reference to sedimentation and erosion control and stormwater management insofar as the same relate to applications for land development under Articles V and VII of the MPC, 53 P.S. §§ 10501 et seq., 10701 et seq. Where such determination relates only to development not involving an Article V or VII, 53 P.S. §§ 10501 et seq., 10701 et seq., application, the appeal from such determination of the Zoning Officer or the Township Engineer shall be to the Zoning Hearing Board pursuant to this section. Where the applicable land use ordinance vests jurisdiction for final administration of subdivision and land development applications in the Planning Commission, all appeals from determinations under this subsection shall be to the Planning Commission and all appeals from the decision of the Planning Commission shall be to court.
[Ord. 2035, 12/9/2002, § 604]
1. 
The Zoning Hearing Board shall hear requests for variances where it is alleged that the provisions of this chapter inflict unnecessary hardship upon the applicant. The Board may by rule prescribe the form of application and may require preliminary application to the Zoning Officer. The Board may grant a variance, provided that all of the following findings are made where relevant in a given case:
A. 
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 in the neighborhood or district in which the property is located.
B. 
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.
C. 
That such unnecessary hardship has not been created by the applicant.
D. 
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.
E. 
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.
2. 
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 and the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, 53 P.S. § 10101 et seq.
[Ord. 2035, 12/9/2002, § 605]
Where the Board of Commissioners, in this chapter, has stated special exceptions to be granted or denied by the Zoning Hearing Board pursuant to express standards and criteria, the Board shall hear and decide requests for such special exceptions in accordance with such standards and criteria. In granting a special exception, the Board may attach such reasonable conditions and safeguards, in addition to those expressed in this chapter, as it may deem necessary to implement the purposes of this chapter and the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, 53 P.S. § 10101 et seq.
[Ord. 2035, 12/9/2002, § 606; as amended by Ord. 2288, 4/12/2010]
1. 
Parties Appellant Before the Board. Appeals arising from the following may be filed with the Board in writing by the landowner affected, any officer or agency of the Township, or any person aggrieved:
A. 
The substantive validity of any land use ordinance except those to be brought before the Board of Commissioners pursuant to the Pennsylvania Municipalities Code, 53 P.S. § 10101 et seq.
B. 
From the determination of the Zoning Officer including, but not limited to, the granting or denial of any permit, or failure to act on the application therefor, the issuance of any cease and desist order or the registration or refusal to register any nonconforming use, structure or lot.
C. 
From a determination by the Township Engineer or the Zoning Officer with reference to the administration of any floodplain or flood hazard ordinance or such provisions within a land use ordinance; from the determination of any officer or agency charged with the administration of any transfers of development rights or performance density provisions of this chapter.
D. 
From the determination of the Zoning Officer or Township Engineer in the administration of any land use ordinance or provision thereof with reference to sedimentation and erosion control and stormwater management insofar as the same relate to development not involving subdivision and land development.
[Amended by Ord. No. 2371, 8/1/2016]
2. 
Requests for a variance and for special exception may be filed with the Board by any landowner or any tenant with the permission of such landowner.
3. 
Time Limitations.
A. 
No person shall be allowed to file any proceeding with the Zoning Hearing Board later than 30 days after an application for development, preliminary or final, has been approved by the Township if such proceeding is designed to secure reversal or to limit the approval in any manner unless such person alleges and proves that he had no notice, knowledge or reason to believe that such approval had been given. If such person has succeeded to his interest after such approval, he shall be bound by the knowledge of his predecessor in interest. The failure of anyone other than the landowner to appeal from an adverse decision on a tentative plan or from an adverse decision by the Zoning Officer on a challenge to the validity of this chapter or an amendment hereto or map or an amendment thereto shall preclude an appeal from a final approval except in the case where the final submission substantially deviates from the approved tentative approval.
B. 
All appeals from determinations adverse to the landowner shall be filed by the landowner within 30 days after notice of the determination is issued.
4. 
Stay of Proceedings.
A. 
Upon filing of any appeal proceeding before the Zoning Hearing Board 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 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 proceedings before the Board.
B. 
After the petition is presented, the court shall hold a hearing to determine if the filing of the appeal is frivolous. At the hearing, evidence may be presented on the merits of the case. It shall be the burden of the applicant for a bond to prove the appeal is frivolous. After consideration of all evidence presented, if the court determines that the appeal is frivolous, it shall grant the petition for a bond. The right to petition the court to order the appellants to post bond may be waived by the appellee, but such waiver may be revoked by him if an appeal is taken from a final decision of the court.
C. 
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. An order denying a petition for bond shall be interlocutory. An order directing the responding party to post a bond shall be interlocutory.
D. 
If an appeal is taken by a respondent to the petition for a bond from an order of the court dismissing a zoning appeal for refusal to post a bond and the appellate court sustains the order of the court below to post a bond, the respondent to the petition for a bond, upon motion of the petitioner and after hearing in the court having jurisdiction of zoning appeals, shall be liable for all reasonable costs, expenses and attorney fees incurred by the petitioner.