[HISTORY: Adopted by the Zoning Hearing Board of the Township of Lower Merion 2-10-1976;  amended in its entirety 9-16-2010. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
Zoning — See Ch. 155.
Editor's Note: These rules are promulgated in accordance with the provisions of Section 906 of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning code (53 P.S. § 10906). Additional provisions pertaining to the establishment of the Zoning Hearing Board and its powers, duties and procedures may be found in Ch. 155, Zoning, Art. XXIII.
The Board adopts "Zoning Hearing Board of Lower Merion Township" as its title.
The offices of the Board shall be in the Township Building, 75 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
The Board shall appoint a Secretary who will maintain the office of the Board in the Township Building, 75 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, Pennsylvania. The Secretary shall have custody of the records and papers of the Board. The Secretary of the Board shall not permit any original records or papers to be taken from his custody except at the direction of the Board or its Solicitor.
The Board shall use such agents, including a Solicitor, as are authorized by the Township Commissioners.
The meetings of the Board shall be held at the call of the Chairman and at other times as the Board may determine. Normally the Board will meet in the Township Building, 75 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
The ultimate authority to schedule cases rests with the full Board. Subject to that authority:
Unless otherwise directed by the Chairman or the Board, the Secretary shall schedule initial hearings in all cases.
The Secretary may grant a request from an applicant or appellant who is the landowner of the property involved to postpone an initial hearing if the request is received no later than two days before the hearing and the applicant or appellant waives any right to insist that the hearings commence within the times specified by the Municipalities Planning Code. The Secretary may refer any such request to the Chairman.
The Chairman shall have the power to postpone or continue any hearing at the request of an applicant or appellant or where, in his judgment, weather or other conditions warrant that action.
Appeals to the Board shall be taken within 30 days after the action which is the subject of the appeal. Such an appeal shall be taken by filing with the Board a notice of appeal specifying the grounds thereof.
All appeals, applications for special exceptions and variances, or challenges filed with the Board shall be submitted to the Secretary of the Board, and each appeal, application or challenge shall state:
The name, address, contact phone number(s) and e-mail address of the applicant.
The name, address, contact phone number(s) and e-mail address of the owner of the real estate to be affected by the appeal or the proposed special exception or the variance.
A brief description and location of the real estate affected by the application or appeal.
A statement of the present zoning classification of the real estate in question, the improvements thereon and the present use thereof.
A statement of the grounds for an appeal, application or challenge and the section of the Lower Merion Code from or under which a variance, or special exception is requested, and reasons why relief should be granted. The Board may decline to consider any ground or reason for relief which is not stated in the notice of appeal or application.
A reasonably accurate description of the present improvements and the additions intended to be made under the appeal or application, indicating the size and nature of any proposed improvements.
The number of witnesses who will give testimony and an indication of the time necessary to present the applicant's case.
In addition, there shall be attached five copies of a plot plan of the property, prepared (except where otherwise authorized by the Zoning Officer) by a registered engineer or land surveyor, indicating the location and size of the lot and the size of improvements now erected and proposed to be erected thereon. If the applicant's plans are larger than 11 inches by 17 inches, the applicant must submit one set of plans reduced to no larger than 11 inches by 17 inches. The applicant should arrange to have additional plans available prior to or at the meeting for potential protestants.
Before an application can be filed, the applicant must establish to the satisfaction of the Zoning Officer that the applicant has such an interest in the property as would enable the applicant, except for the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance, to make the use of the property requested by the applicant. The Zoning Officer may require the production of the appropriate leases, deeds and other legal documents in order to make this initial determination. Any person filing an appeal from the issuance of a permit or permission shall include with the appeal a statement showing that the appellant is aggrieved by the action from which the appeal is taken.
In all cases involving a challenge to the validity of any provision of any ordinance, the person asserting the challenge shall file with the Secretary of the Board and the Township Manager at least five days prior to the hearing a memorandum listing:
In other cases, briefs shall be furnished to the Board where their filing has been requested by the Chairman of the Board.
Where memoranda or briefs are required or permitted, five copies shall be filed with the Board and a copy shall be served upon opposing parties or their representative, if their identity is known to the person filing the memorandum or brief.
Memoranda and briefs shall be available for inspection by interested parties at the office of the Secretary of the Board. The Board may refuse to accept any evidence offered without compliance with this rule.
All exhibits shall be in a form that can be folded to dimensions of eight inches by 10 1/2 inches. Nothing in this rule shall prevent a party from mounting a copy of an exhibit to facilitate its use at the hearing. Where a model or similar exhibit is used at the hearing, a photograph shall be used as the exhibit for record purposes.
Hearings in cases involving expert evidence are impeded if opposing parties first receive expert reports during the hearing at which the evidence is offered. Any party wishing to present expert evidence at a hearing shall file a copy of any report prepared by the expert with the Secretary of the Board at least 48 hours prior to the hearing. In addition, if the identity of counsel of any other party is known, a copy of the report shall be sent to such counsel so that it is received at least 24 hours prior to the hearing. All such reports shall be available for inspection at the offices of the Board. The Board may exclude any evidence offered without compliance with this rule.
The parties to a preceding before the Board shall be limited to:
The applicant or appellant;
The Township; and
Any person, including civic or community organizations, affected by the application, appeal or challenge shall both attend the hearing personally or through counsel and enter an appearance on a form provided by the Board. Persons who attend the hearing but do not file the appearance form shall not be deemed to be parties to the proceeding.
The notice requirements for an initial zoning hearing are specified in the applicable statutes and the Lower Merion Code. In the case of hearings other than the initial hearing, notice should be given as follows:
The Board generally will announce the time and place of a second or later hearing at which evidence or oral argument is presented (a "continued hearing") at a hearing in the same matter.
Where notice of a continued hearing is not given under Subsection (1), written notice of any continued hearing should be given to counsel of record and to persons shown by the file to have entered their appearances in the matter, or who have requested in writing that they receive notices of the hearing involved. Notice of continued hearings should be posted at the office of the Board and any notice required by 65 P.S. § 279(c) should be given to persons who have provided stamped, addressed envelopes for that purpose.
Notice of executive sessions will be announced at an open hearing or will be given as provided in Subsection A(4).
Continued hearings and executive sessions generally will be the subject of a single newspaper advertisement where time permits.
The Board may waive any requirement under this rule if the notice actually given meets any applicable and mandatory requirements of law and is sufficient to give reasonable notice of the hearing or meeting.
The Board, may, upon request, authorize or direct the Zoning Officer to issue or deny a permit if in its opinion the issuance or denial of such permit is authorized or required by the ordinance. In such cases no public hearing will be held unless an appeal from the issuance or denial of a permit is taken as provided in these rules.
All decisions of the Board shall be filed with the Secretary of the Board and be matters of public record. Notice of such decisions will be given to parties who, either personally or through counsel, make a written request that such notice be given them.
The Board may, on its own motion or upon timely request of any party in interest, amend any of its decisions in whole or in part.
Any member of the Board or the Board's Solicitor will disqualify himself from participating in the hearing or disposition of any application or appeal if such member or the Solicitor considers that he is personally interested in the outcome of the application or appeal.
Any power granted to the Chairman by law or under these rules may be exercised by the Vice Chairman or Senior Board member if the Chairman is unavailable or disqualified from participating in the particular matter.
Video, image and sound recording devices may be operated at meetings of the Board held pursuant to Lower Merion Code § 155-111, subject to the following conditions:
All such devices must be operated behind the last row of the meeting room in which attendees are seated or in the open area to the west side of the Board's seating area;
All such devices must not hinder the public's viewing of the meeting or movement around the meeting room, must not disrupt the meeting or interfere with the public's hearing of the meeting and must not compromise the safety of persons in attendance;
No lighting or flash equipment may be used; and
Operators of such devices may not move around the meeting room while recording, and devices may not be plugged into any electrical outlet in the meeting room or elsewhere in the building.
Video, image and sound recording devices may not be operated during the course of hearings conducted by the Board pursuant to Sections 908 and 909.1 of the Municipalities Planning Code (53 P.S. §§ 10908 and 10909.1) and Lower Merion Code § 155-113; provided, however, that the Board's stenographer taking the notes of testimony may use a sound recording device.
These rules shall be broadly construed in order to give the Board the maximum discretion which it is authorized to exercise.
These rules may be amended or rescinded at any time by a majority of the Board.