[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Supervisors of the Township of Washington 8-24-2017 by Ord. No. 2017-2. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This ordinance was originally adopted as Ch. 90 but was renumbered to maintain the organization of the Code.
This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "Township of Washington Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Ordinance."
The Township Supervisors find it to be in the best interests of the residents of the Township to provide for certain protections and safeguards in order to address properties for which the owners thereof do not pay obligations owing by them to the Township; deteriorated properties; public nuisances and/or properties in serious violation of applicable laws. Such protections and safeguards include but are not limited to denial of permits and actions at law and in equity as permitted by Act 90 of 2010 and other applicable statutes.
Editor's Note: See 53 Pa.C.S.A. § 6101 et seq.
The following words and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
- ACT 90
- The Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Act of 2010.
- APPLICABLE LAWS
- All federal, state and/or municipal laws, codes, ordinances, rules and/or regulations which create or enforce obligations for an owner or occupant of property or person in charge of property, or create or enforce obligations with respect to the maintenance and upkeep of property.
- A person or entity applying for a municipal permit.
- The Township Supervisors, the Zoning Hearing Board or any other body granted jurisdiction to render decisions in accordance with the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, the Pennsylvania Township Code, the Code of Ordinances of the Township, or any board authorized to act in a similar manner by law.
- A residential, commercial, industrial, or other structure with walls and a roof, having a permanent, fixed location on land or in water.
- A building, housing, property maintenance, fire, health, sanitary sewer connection, sanitary sewer charge, water charge, refuse collection or other public safety ordinance enacted by the Township. This term does not include a subdivision and land development ordinance or a zoning ordinance enacted by a municipality.
- The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
- The appropriate court of common pleas or magisterial district judge court.
- MORTGAGE LENDER
- A business association defined as a "banking institution" or "mortgage lender" under 7 Pa.C.S.A. Chapter 61 (relating to mortgage loan industry licensing and consumer protection) that is in possession of or holds title to real property pursuant to, in enforcement of or to protect rights arising under a mortgage, mortgage note, deed of trust or other transaction that creates a security interest in the real property.
- MUNICIPAL PERMITS
- Privileges relating to real property granted by a municipality, including but not limited to sanitary sewer connections, sanitary sewer charges, water charges, refuse collection charges, building permits, variances or special exceptions to zoning ordinances, and occupancy permits. This term includes approvals pursuant to land use ordinances other than decisions on the substantive validity of a zoning ordinance or zoning map or the acceptance of a curative amendment.
- MUNICIPAL SERVICES
- Services provided at a cost by the Township or other municipal entity, including but not limited to sanitary sewer services, water services and refuse collection services, which benefit individual properties and also serve to benefit the overall welfare, safety and health of all residents of the Township.
- A city, township, incorporated town, township or home rule, optional plan or option charter municipality or municipal authority in the commonwealth and any entity formed pursuant to 53 Pa.C.S.A. Chapter 23, Subchapter A (relating to intergovernmental cooperation).
- A holder of title to residential, commercial or industrial real estate, other than a mortgage lender, who possesses and controls the real estate. The term includes but is not limited to the assigns, beneficiaries and lessees, provided such ownership interest is a matter of public record.
- PUBLIC NUISANCE
- Property which, because of its physical condition or use, is regarded as a public nuisance at common law or has been declared by the appropriate official a public nuisance in accordance with a municipal code.
- SERIOUS VIOLATION
- A violation of an applicable law that poses an imminent threat to the health and safety of a dwelling occupant, occupants in surrounding structures, or passersby.
- SUBSTANTIAL STEP
- An affirmative action as determined by a property code official or officer of the court on the part of an owner or managing agent to remedy a serious violation of an applicable law, including but not limited to physical improvements or repairs to the property, which affirmative action is subject to appeal in accordance with applicable law.
- TAX DELINQUENT PROPERTY
- Tax delinquent real property as defined under the Act of July 7, 1947 (P.L. 1368, No. 542), known as the Real Estate Tax Sale Law; the Act of May 16, 1923 (P.L. 207, No. 153), referred to as the Municipal Claim and Tax Lien Law; or the Act of October 11, 1984 (P.L. 876, No. 171), known as the Second Class City Treasurer's Sale and Collection Act, located in any municipality in the commonwealth.
- The Township of Washington, Berks County, Pennsylvania.
- TOWNSHIP SUPERVISORS
- The Township Supervisors of the Township of Washington, Berks County, Pennsylvania.
- ZONING HEARING BOARD
- The Zoning Hearing Board of the Township.
In addition to any other remedies available at law or in equity, the Township may institute the following actions against the owner of any real property that is in serious violation of a code or for failure to correct a condition which causes the property to be regarded as a public nuisance:
An in personam action may be initiated for a continuing violation for which the owner takes no substantial step to correct within six months following receipt of an order to correct the violation, unless the order is subject to a pending appeal before the administrative agency or court;
Notwithstanding any law limiting the form of action for recovery of penalties by a municipality for the violation of a code, the Township may recover, in a single action under this section, an amount equal to any penalties imposed against the owner and any costs of remediation lawfully incurred by or on behalf of the Township to remedy any code violation.
A proceeding in equity.
General rule. A lien may be placed against the assets of an owner of real property that is in serious violation of a code or is regarded as a public nuisance after a judgment, decree or order is entered by a court of competent jurisdiction against the owner of the property for an adjudication under § 72-4 of this chapter (relating to actions).
Construction. Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize, in the case of an owner that is an association or trust, a lien on the individual assets of the general partner or trustee, except as otherwise allowed by law, limited partner, shareholder, member or beneficiary of the association or trust.
A person who lives or has a principal place of residence outside the commonwealth, who owns property in the commonwealth against which code violations have been cited and such owner is charged under 18 Pa.C.S.A. (relating to crimes and offenses), and who has been properly notified of such violations, may be extradited to the commonwealth to face criminal prosecution to the full extent allowed and in the manner authorized by 42 Pa.C.S.A. Chapter 91 (relating to detainers and extradition).
Where, after reasonable efforts, service of process for a notice or citation for any code violation for any real property owned by an association or trust cannot be accomplished by handing a copy of such notice or citation to an executive officer, partner or trustee of such association or trust, or to such manager, trustee or clerk in charge of such property, the delivery of such notice or citation may occur by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, postage prepaid, or by United States Express Mail, postage prepaid, accompanied by a delivery confirmation:
To the registered office of the association or trust; or
Where the association or trust does not have a registered office, to the mailing address used for real estate tax collection purposes, if accompanied by the posting of a conspicuous notice to the property and by handing a copy of such notice or citation to the person in charge of the property at that time.
Permit application form.
In addition to the requirements set forth in the governing ordinance, regulations, or rules for the specific municipal permit being applied for under the ordinances referenced in the definition of "municipal permits," all applications for a municipal permit shall include the following:
If the applicant is an individual, the full name and home address of the applicant. If the applicant is not the owner of the property, then the full name and home address of the owner, with a signed statement of the owner authorizing the applicant to apply for the municipal permit.
If the owner or applicant is an entity, its registered name and any fictitious names used, the address of its registered office in Pennsylvania, the address of its principal place of business, type of entity, in what state it was formed, whether the entity has qualified to do business as a foreign entity in the commonwealth by filing with the Corporation Bureau of the Pennsylvania Department of State, and the home address of at least one responsible officer, member, trustee, or partner.
The application shall also include a provision requiring the applicant to disclose real properties owned by the owner in the Township, as well as in all other municipalities in the commonwealth at which any of the following conditions exist:
A serious violation of any applicable laws or codes, and the owner (or applicant, if it is responsible for maintaining the condition of the real property) has taken no substantial steps to correct the violation within six months following the notification of the serious violation.
The imposition of fines, penalties, or judgments to abate or correct the violations by a magisterial district court, housing court, municipal court, or court of common pleas or appellate court, or a judgment at law or in equity imposed by any court of competent jurisdiction.
A final and unappealable tax, water, sewer, refuse collection, or other municipal service delinquency on the account of the actions of the owner (or applicant, if the applicant is responsible for the payment of taxes and/or fees for municipal services). The applicant shall disclose the street address, tax parcel number, county, and municipality of each such real property.
The disclosure required by this section shall be signed by the applicant under the penalties for unsworn falsification to authorities set forth in 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 4904.
The Township or a board may deny issuing an applicant a municipal permit if the applicant owns or is responsible for real property in any municipality for which there exists on such real property:
A final and unappealable tax and/or municipal services delinquency on account of the actions of the owner or applicant; or
A serious violation of any applicable law, and the owner or applicant has taken no substantial steps to correct the serious violation within six months following notification of such serious violation and for which fines or other penalties or a judgment to abate or correct were imposed by a magisterial district judge or municipal court, or a judgment at law or in equity was imposed by a court of common pleas.
Notwithstanding anything contained in Subsection B(1) of this section, no denial shall be permitted on the basis of a property for which the judgment, order or decree is subject to supersedeas by an order of a court, or automatically allowed by statute or rule of court until the stay or supersedeas is lifted by the court or a higher court, or the stay or supersedeas expires as otherwise provided by law. Where a stay or supersedeas is in effect, the property owner or applicant shall so advise the Township or the board seeking to deny such municipal permit. The Township or the board shall not deny a municipal permit to an applicant if the municipal permit is necessary to correct a violation of any applicable law.
The municipal permit denial shall not apply to an applicant's delinquency on taxes or municipal services charges that are under appeal, or otherwise contested through a court or administrative process, or are being paid pursuant to an installment agreement between the municipality and the applicant.
In issuing a denial of a municipal permit based upon an applicant's delinquency in real property taxes or charges for municipal services or for failure to abate a serious violation of any applicable law on real property that the applicant owns in the commonwealth, the Township or the board shall indicate the street address, municipal corporation and county in which the property is located and the court and docket number for each parcel cited as a basis for the denial. The denial shall also state that the applicant may request a letter of compliance from the appropriate commonwealth agency, municipality or school district, in a form specified by such entity as provided in this section.
All municipal permits denied in accordance with this section may be withheld until an applicant obtains a letter from the appropriate commonwealth agency, municipality or school district indicating the following:
The subject property has no final and unappealable delinquencies for sanitary sewer connection charges, sanitary sewer charges, water charges, refuse collection, permit fees, review fees and/or other municipal charges;
The subject property is now in compliance with all applicable laws;
The owner of the subject property has presented, and the appropriate commonwealth agency or municipality has accepted, a plan to commence remediation of a serious violation of applicable law. Acceptance of the plan may be contingent upon:
Commencement of the remediation plan within not less than 30 days following acceptance of the plan, or sooner if mutually agreeable to both the property owner and the municipality;
Completion of the remediation plan within not less than 90 days following commencement of the plan, or sooner if mutually agreeable to both the property owner and the municipality.
In the event the appropriate commonwealth agency, municipality or school district fails to issue a letter indicating compliance or noncompliance, as applicable, with sanitary sewer connection charges, sanitary sewer charges, water charges, refuse collection, permit fees, review fees and/or other municipal charges and/or with applicable laws, within 45 days of the request therefor, the subject property shall be deemed to be in compliance for the purposes of this section. The appropriate commonwealth agency, municipality or school district shall specify the form in which the request for a compliance letter shall be made.
Letters required under this section shall be verified by the appropriate municipal officials before issuing a municipal permit to the applicant.
Boards, including but not limited to the Zoning Hearing Board, may deny approval of municipal permits, including but not limited to special exception approval and variance relief, if warranted as set forth above to the extent that approval of such municipal permit is within the jurisdiction of such board.
In any proceeding before a board other than the governing body of the Township, the Township may appear and present evidence that the applicant is subject to a denial by the board in accordance with this section.
For purposes of this section, a municipal permit may only be denied to an applicant other than an owner if the applicant is acting under the direction or with the permission of the owner, and the owner owns real property that is subject to denial as set forth above.
A denial of a municipal permit shall be subject to the provisions of 2 Pa.C.S.A., Chapter 5, Subchapter B (relating to practice and procedure of local agencies), and Chapter 7, Subchapter B (relating to judicial review of local agency action), or the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, for denials subject to the Act.
Editor's Note: See 53 P.S. § 10101 et seq.
The applicant shall have the right to appeal the denial of a municipal permit in accordance with the law governing the issuance of such municipal permit. In the case of a denial by the Building Code Official or Property Maintenance Code Official, the appeal shall be made within 30 days of the denial to the Board of Appeals established under the Uniform Construction Code or the Property Maintenance Code, unless the applicant has submitted to the Board of Appeals proof before the expiration of 30 days that the applicant is seeking proof of compliance as set forth herein, in which case the municipal permit and the denial shall be held in abeyance until the forty-five-day period for obtaining proof of compliance has expired. In the case of a denial of a municipal permit in the form of a special exception or variance by the Zoning Hearing Board, or a conditional use by the Board of Supervisors, the appeal shall be taken to the Court of Common Pleas in the manner provided by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, 53 P.S. § 10101 et seq. With respect to denials for reasons other than those authorized by Act 90, the provisions of the Uniform Construction Code, Municipalities Planning Code, or other applicable laws shall govern.
A denial of a municipal permit may be reversed only for the following reasons:
An authentic proof of compliance letter as described herein.
Evidence of substantial steps taken to remedy the serious violation(s) set forth in the denial.
Evidence of an approved remedial plan to address the serious violation(s) set forth in the denial.
Evidence of a timely appeal or administrative contest of a tax, water, sewer, or refuse collection delinquency.
The failure of a commonwealth agency, school district, or municipality to issue a proof of compliance within 45 days of a request.
Any other verifiable evidence that establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that a serious violation or collection delinquency of tax, water, sewer, or refuse accounts does not exist.
In the event a conflict between the requirements of this chapter and federal requirements applicable to demolition, disposition or redevelopment of buildings, structures or land owned by or held in trust for the government of the United States and registered pursuant to the United States Housing Act of 1937 (50 Stat. 888, 42 U.S.C. § 1437 et seq.) and the regulations promulgated thereunder, the federal requirements shall prevail.
Where property is inherited by will or intestacy, the devisee or heir shall be provided with the opportunity to make payments on reasonable terms to correct code violations or to enter into a remediation agreement under § 72-8F(3) of this chapter (relating to municipal permit denial) with a municipality to avoid subjecting the devisee's or heir's other properties to asset attachment or denial of municipal permits and approvals on other properties owned by the devisee or heir.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to abridge or alter the remedies now existing at common law or by statute, but the provisions of this chapter are in addition to such remedies.
The Township Manager, Township Code Enforcement Officer and the Township Solicitor, and all other persons employed or appointed by the Township, are authorized to take all actions necessary to ensure implementation of and effect the purposes of this chapter.
The Township reserves all rights and remedies existing under statutes other than Act 90, its ordinances implementing them, and applicable case law to obtain recovery for the costs of preventing and abatement of violations, violations of applicable laws, and public nuisances to the fullest extent allowed by law from mortgage lenders; trustees and members of liability companies; property managers (including but not limited to partners and other persons or entities who provide property management services to the real property); general partners of owners; and officers, agents, and operators who are in control of a property as an owner or otherwise hold them personally responsible for code violations and violations of applicable laws as well as owners themselves. Such owners, mortgage lenders, partners, members of limited liability companies, trustees, officers, agents, and operators in control of a real property with code violations shall be subject to all actions at law and equity to the full extent authorized by statutes, ordinances, and applicable case law. Such action may be joined in one lawsuit against responsible parties with an action brought under Act 90.
The provisions of this chapter are severable. If any clause, sentence, subsection or section hereof shall be adjudged by any court of competent jurisdiction to be illegal, invalid or unconstitutional, such judgment or decision shall not affect, impair or invalidate the remainder of this chapter, but shall be confined in its operation and application to the clause, sentence, subsection or section rendered. It is hereby declared the intent of Township Council that this chapter would have been adopted if such illegal, invalid or unconstitutional clause, sentence, subsection or section had not been included herein.