A Zoning Hearing Board is hereby established which shall consist of three members, residing within Butler Township, to be appointed by resolution of the Township Board of Commissioners. One member shall be appointed for one year, one member for two years and one member for three years, and each subsequent term shall be for three years. Members of the Zoning Hearing Board shall hold no other elected or appointed office in the Township, nor shall any member be an employee of the Township. Vacancies shall be filled by resolution of the Township Board of Commissioners for the unexpired term of the member affected.
Any Zoning Hearing Board member may be removed for malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in office or for other just cause by a majority vote of the Township Board of Commissioners, 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.
The Township Board of Commissioners may appoint, by resolution, at least one but no more than three residents of the Township to serve as alternate members of the Zoning Hearing Board. The term of office of an alternate member shall be three years. When seated pursuant to the provisions of § 300-35, 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 the right to cast a vote as a voting member during the proceedings, and shall have all the powers and duties set forth in this chapter and as otherwise provided by law. Alternates shall hold no other elected or appointed office in the municipality, 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 proceedings or discussion of the Zoning Hearing Board, but shall not be entitled to vote as a member of the Zoning Hearing Board unless designated as a voting alternate member pursuant to § 300-35 of this chapter.
The Chairman of the Zoning Hearing Board may designate alternate members of the Zoning Hearing Board to replace any absent or disqualified member and 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 Zoning Hearing Board as may be needed to provide a quorum. Any alternate member of the Zoning Hearing Board shall continue to serve on the Zoning Hearing 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.
The Zoning Hearing 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 Zoning Hearing Board, but the Zoning Hearing 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 Zoning Hearing Board as provided in Subsection B below. The Zoning Hearing Board shall adopt rules necessary to the conduct of its affairs and in keeping with the provisions of this chapter. Meetings shall be scheduled as needed and may also be called by the Chairman. The Zoning Hearing Board shall keep full public records of its business and shall submit a report of its activities to the Township Board of Commissioners once a year.
Hearings. The Zoning Hearing Board shall conduct hearings and make decisions in accordance with the following requirements:
Public notice. Public notice as defined by this chapter shall be given in accordance with the requirements defined.
Written notice. Written notice shall be given to the applicant, the Township Planning Commission, the Zoning Officer or his authorized representative or to any person who has made timely request for the same. Written notices shall be sent by regular mail to all property owners of record within 200 feet of the exterior boundaries of the property which is the subject of the application or appeal.
Posting. In addition to the written notice provided herein, written notice of said hearings shall be conspicuously posted on the affected tract of land at least one week prior to the hearing.
The Township Board of Commissioners may prescribe reasonable fees with respect to hearings before the Zoning Hearing Board. Fees for said hearings may include compensation for the Secretary and members of the Zoning Hearing Board, notice and advertising costs and necessary administrative overhead connected with the hearing. The costs, however, shall not include legal expenses of the Zoning Hearing Board, expenses for engineering, architectural or other technical consultants or expert witness costs.
Editor's Notes: The schedule of fees is available for public inspection in the office of the Township Manager.
The first hearing shall be commenced within 60 days from the date of the applicant's request, unless the applicant has agreed in writing to an extension of time.
Each subsequent hearing before the Zoning Hearing 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 Zoning Hearing 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. And the 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 the 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.
The hearing shall be conducted by the Zoning Hearing Board, or the Zoning Hearing Board may appoint any member as a hearing officer. The decision or, where no decision is called for, the findings shall be made by the Zoning Hearing 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 Zoning Hearing Board and accept the decision or findings of the hearing officer as final.
The parties of the hearing shall be any person who is entitled to notice under § 300-36B(1) above, without special request therefor, who has made timely appearance of record before the Zoning Hearing Board and any other person permitted to appear by the Zoning Hearing Board. The Zoning Hearing Board shall have the power to require that all persons who wish to be considered enter appearances in writing on forms provided by the Zoning Hearing Board for that purpose.
The Chairman or Acting Chairman of the Zoning Hearing 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.
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.
Formal rules of evidence shall not apply, but irrelevant, immaterial or unduly repetitious evidence may be excluded.
The Zoning Hearing 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 Zoning Hearing Board. The cost of the original transcript shall be paid by the Zoning Hearing Board or hearing officer or shall be paid by the person appealing from the decision of the Zoning Hearing 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.
The Zoning Hearing 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 its or his 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.
The Zoning Hearing 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 Zoning Hearing Board or hearing officer. Each decision shall be accompanied by findings of fact and conclusions based thereon together with the reasons therefor. Conclusions based on any provision of this chapter 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 Zoning Hearing 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 Zoning Hearing Board prior to the final decision or entry of findings. The Zoning Hearing Board's decision shall be entered no later than 30 days after the report of the hearing officer. Where the Zoning Hearing Board fails to render the decision within the forty-five-day period 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 Zoning Hearing Board to meet or render a decision, the Zoning Hearing Board shall give public notice of the decision within 10 days from the last day it could have met to render a decision. If the Zoning Hearing 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 the Court of Common Pleas.
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 Zoning Hearing Board not later than the last day of the hearing, the Zoning Hearing 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.
Parties to proceedings authorized in this article 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 article once they have been formally initiated. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as expanding or limiting municipal police powers or as modifying any principles of substantive law.
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. In offering the mediation option, the Township shall assure that in each case, the mediating parties, assisted by the mediator as appropriate, develop terms and conditions for:
Selecting a mediator who, at a minimum, shall have a working knowledge of municipal zoning and subdivision procedures and demonstrate skills in mediation.
Completing mediation, including time limits for such completion.
Suspending time limits otherwise authorized in this chapter or in the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (Act 247, as amended), provided that there is written consent by the mediating parties and by an applicant or Township decisionmaking body, if either is not a party to the mediation.
Editor's Note: See 53 P.S. § 10101 et seq.
Identifying all parties and affording them the opportunity to participate.
Subject to legal restraints, determining whether some or all of the mediation sessions shall be open or closed to the public.
Assuring that mediated solutions are in writing and signed by the parties and become subject to review and approval by the appropriate decisionmaking body pursuant to the authorized procedures set forth in this chapter.
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.
The Zoning Hearing Board shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and render final adjudication in the following matters:
Substantive challenges to the validity of any land use ordinance, except curative amendments brought before the Township Board of Commissioners.
Challenges to the validity of a land use ordinance raising procedural questions or alleged defects in the process of enactment or adoption, which challenges shall be raised by an appeal taken within 30 days after the effective date of this chapter.
Appeals from the determination of the Zoning Officer or his authorized representative, 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.
Appeals from a determination by the Township Engineer or the Zoning Officer or his authorized representative with reference to the administration of any floodplain or flood hazard ordinance or such provisions within a land use ordinance.
Applications for variances from the terms of this chapter or floodplain or flood hazard ordinance or such provisions within a land use ordinance, pursuant to § 300-39A.
Applications for special exceptions under this chapter or floodplain or flood hazard ordinance or such provisions within a land use ordinance, pursuant to § 300-39B.
Appeals from the determination of the Zoning Officer or his authorized representative 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 or planned residential development.
Variance: conditions governing application procedures.
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 Zoning Hearing Board may grant a variance, provided that all of the following findings are made where relevant in a given case:
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.
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.
That such unnecessary hardship has not been created by the appellant.
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.
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.
In granting any variance the Zoning Hearing Board may prescribe appropriate conditions and safeguards in conformity with this chapter.
The Zoning Hearing Board shall prescribe a time limit within which the action for which the variance is required shall be begun or completed, or both. Failure to begin or complete, or both, such action within the time limit set shall void the variance.
Special exceptions: conditions governing application procedure. The Zoning Hearing Board shall hear and decide requests for special exceptions as stated in this chapter. A special exception shall not be granted by the Zoning Hearing Board unless and until:
A written application for a special exception is submitted stating the grounds on which it is requested.
Findings of fact.
The Zoning Hearing Board, before it grants a special exception, shall make findings of fact and state its reasons for granting the special exception, said findings of fact to include:
That the use will not endanger the public health or safety if located where proposed and developed, and that the use will not allow conditions which will tend to generate nuisance conditions such as noise, dust, glare and vibration.
That the use meets all applicable express standards and criteria specified in § 300-23 of this chapter, as well as the specifications set forth in the district where it is proposed to be located.
That the location and character of the use, if developed according to the plan as submitted and approved, will be in harmony with the area in which it is to be located and in general conformity with the Comprehensive Plan for Butler Township.
To ensure the establishment of the above conditions, the Zoning Hearing Board shall have the authority to require and approve specific plans and may attach such reasonable conditions and safeguards as it deems necessary to protect the public health, safety and welfare.
All conditions required by the Zoning Hearing Board shall be entered in the minutes of the meeting at which the permit is granted and also on the certificate of special exception.
In no case shall the Zoning Hearing Board have the authority to modify the requirements of this chapter for any special exception unless a variance is applied for and granted.
The Zoning Hearing Board shall prescribe a time limit within which the action for which the special exception is required is to be initiated or completed, or both. Failure to either begin or complete such action within the time limit set shall void the special exception approval.
No person shall file any proceeding before the Zoning Hearing Board later than 30 days after a preliminary or final application for development has been approved by an appropriate Township officer, agency or body, 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 an application for tentative approval of a planned residential development or from an adverse decision by the Zoning Officer or his authorized representative on a challenge to the validity of an ordinance or map filed pursuant to Section 916.2 of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code shall preclude an appeal from a final approval, except in the case where the final submission substantially deviates from the approved tentative approval. All appeals from determinations adverse to the landowner shall be filed by the landowner within 30 days after notice of the determination is issued.
Upon filing of any proceeding and during its pendency before the Zoning Hearing Board, all land development pursuant to any challenged ordinance, order or approval of the Zoning Officer or his authorized representative or of any agency or body, and all official action thereunder, shall be stayed unless the Zoning Officer or his authorized representative or any other appropriate agency or body certifies to the Zoning Hearing 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 Zoning Hearing Board or by the court having jurisdiction of zoning appeals on petition after notice to the Zoning Officer or his authorized representative 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 Zoning Hearing 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 Zoning Hearing Board. 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.
All appeals from decisions rendered by the Zoning Hearing Board shall be taken to the Butler County Court of Common Pleas and shall be filed within 30 days after the entry of the decision or, in the case of a deemed decision, within 30 days after the date upon which notice of said deemed decision is given as required by § 300-36B(12) of this chapter.
If an application for a variance, appeal from the Zoning Officer or his authorized representative or special exception is denied by the Zoning Hearing Board, another application shall not be filed within a period of one year from the date of denial, except upon the concurrence of the Zoning Hearing Board after the applicant or appellant demonstrates a change of circumstances which would warrant a rehearing.