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City of Easton, PA
Northampton County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
The proceedings set forth in this article shall constitute the exclusive mode for securing review of any ordinance, decision, determination or order of Council, its agencies or offices adopted or issued pursuant to Act 247.
Questions of an alleged defect in the process of enactment or adoption of any ordinance or map shall be raised by an appeal taken directly from the action of Council to the Court.
A. 
A landowner who, on substantive grounds, desires to challenge the validity of an ordinance or map or any provision thereof which prohibits or restricts the use or development of land in which he/she has an interest shall submit the challenge either:
(1) 
To the Zoning Hearing Board for a report thereon under §§ 595-250, Challenge to validity of Zoning Ordinance or Map, or 595-253, Unified appeals; or
(2) 
To Council together with a request for a curative amendment.
B. 
The submissions referred to in Subsection A hereof shall be governed by the following:
(1) 
The landowner shall make a written request to the Zoning Hearing Board or Council that it hold a hearing on his challenge. The request shall contain a short statement reasonably informing the Board or the Council of the matters that are in issue and the grounds for the challenge. Such statement shall contain a certification that the landowner did not know at the time of the application:
(a) 
That the City had resolved to consider a particular scheme of rezoning by publication of notice of hearings on a proposed Comprehensive Plan or proposed zoning ordinance or otherwise; or
(b) 
That the scheme of rezoning would be inconsistent with the landowner's proposed use, provided that this rezoning scheme had reached sufficient particularity to disclose that, if adopted, it would cure the defect in the zoning ordinance attached by the substantive challenge.
(2) 
The request may be submitted at any time after the Ordinance or Map takes effect but if an application for a permit or approval is denied thereunder, the request shall be made not later than the time provided for appeal from the denial thereof. In such case, if the landowner elects to make the request to Council and the request is timely, the time within which he/she may seek review of the denial of the permit or approval on other issues shall not begin to run until the request to Council is finally disposed of.
(3) 
The requests shall be accompanied by plans and other materials describing the use of development proposed by the landowner in lieu of the map or development permitted by the challenged ordinance or map. Such plans and other materials shall not be required to meet the standards prescribed for preliminary, tentative or final approval or for the issuance of a permit so long as they provide reasonable notice of the proposed use or development and a sufficient basis for evaluating the challenged ordinance or map in the light thereof. Nothing contained herein shall preclude the landowner from first seeking a final permit or approval before submitting his challenge to the Board or Council.
(4) 
If the submission is made to Council under Subsection A(2) hereof, the request shall be accompanied by an amendment or amendments to the Ordinance proposed by the landowner to cure the alleged defects therein.
(5) 
Notice of the hearing required by this chapter shall include notice that the validity of the Ordinance or Map is in question and shall give the place where and the times when a copy of the landowner's request, including the plans submitted pursuant to Subsection B(3) hereof and the proposed amendments, if any, submitted under Subsection B(4) hereof may be examined by the public.
(6) 
The Board or Council, as the case may be, shall hold a hearing upon the landowner's request, commencing not later than 60 days after the request is filed unless the landowner requests or consents to an extension of time.
C. 
The landowner's request for a curative amendment is denied when:
(1) 
Council notifies the landowner that it will not adopt the amendment;
(2) 
Council adopts another amendment which is unacceptable to the landowner, or
(3) 
Council fails to act on the landowner's request, in which event the denial is deemed to have occurred on the 30th day after the close of the last hearing on the request unless the time is extended by mutual consent between the landowner and the City.
Persons aggrieved by use or development permitted on the land of another by an ordinance or map or any provision thereof who desire to challenge its validity on substantive grounds shall first submit their challenge to the Zoning Hearing Board for a report thereon.
A. 
The aggrieved persons shall submit a written request to the Board that it hold a hearing on the challenge. The request shall contain a short statement reasonably informing the Board of the matters that are in issue and the grounds for the challenge.
B. 
The request shall be submitted within the time limitations prescribed by § 595-255. In order not to unreasonably delay the time when a landowner may secure assurance that the ordinance or map under which he/she proposes to build is free from challenge, and recognizing that the procedure for preliminary approval of his development may be too cumbersome or may be unavailable, the landowner may advance the date from which time for any challenge to the ordinance or map will run under § 595-255 by the following procedure:
(1) 
The landowner may submit plans and other materials describing his proposed use of development to the Zoning Administrator for a preliminary opinion as to their compliance with the applicable ordinances and maps. Such plans and other materials shall not be required to meet the standards prescribed for preliminary, tentative or final approval or for the issuance of a building permit so long as they provide reasonable notice of the proposed use or development and a sufficient basis for a preliminary opinion as to its compliance.
(2) 
If the Zoning Administrator's preliminary opinion is that the use or development complies with the Ordinance or Map, notice thereof shall be published once each week for two successive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the City. Such notice shall include a general description of the proposed use or development and its location, by some readily identifiable directive, and the place and times where the plans and other materials may be examined by the public. The favorable preliminary opinion of the Zoning Administrator shall be deemed to be a preliminary approval under § 595-255, and the time therein specified for commencing a proceeding with the Board shall run from the time when the second notice thereof has been published.
C. 
The Board shall hold a hearing upon the aggrieved person's request commencing not later than 60 days after the request is filed. If a hearing has been held by Council covering the same matters, at which a stenographic record has been taken, the Board shall upon motion of any party accept such record as the record in the case before the Board, but the Board shall not be precluded from taking additional evidence unless such evidence ought to be excluded under § 595-244.
D. 
After submitting his challenge to the Board, as provided in Subsections A and B hereof, any party aggrieved may take the same to Court by appeal.
A. 
A landowner who desires to file a zoning application or to secure review or correction of a decision or order of Council or of any officer or agency of the City which prohibits or restricts the use or development of land in which he/she has an interest on the ground that such decision or order is not authorized by or is contrary to the provisions of an ordinance or map shall proceed as follows:
(1) 
From a decision of Council or a planning agency under a subdivision or land development ordinance the landowner may appeal directly to Court or to the Zoning Hearing Board where applicable. An adverse decision on preliminary or tentative plans shall, at the landowner's election, be treated as final and appealable.
(2) 
From the decision of Council or a planning agency denying tentative approval of a development plan or, if tentative approval has been granted, from any adverse decision on an application for final approval, the landowner may appeal directly to Court or to the Zoning Hearing Board where applicable.
(3) 
To the extent that the Board has jurisdiction on all other appeals shall lie exclusively to the Zoning Hearing Board.
(4) 
Applications under § 595-251, Special exceptions, and § 595-252, Variances, shall be made exclusively to the Zoning Hearing Board.
B. 
Appeals to the Zoning Hearing Board pursuant to Subsection A(1) and (3) hereof shall be filed within 30 days after notice of the decision is issued or, if no decision is made, within 30 days from the date when a decision is deemed to have been made.
C. 
Appeals to Court.
(1) 
Appeals to Court may be taken by the landowner from any decision of City Council or planning agency under Subsections A(1) and (2) hereof after the decision is issued or, if any decision is made, when a decision is deemed to have been made.
(2) 
Appeals to Court from any decision of the Zoning Hearing Board may be taken by any party aggrieved.
A. 
Persons aggrieved by a use or development permitted on the land of another who desire to secure review or correction of a decision or order of Council or of any officer or agency of the City which has permitted the same, on the grounds that such decision or order is not authorized by or is contrary to the provisions of an ordinance or map shall first submit their objections to the Zoning Hearing Board. The submission shall be governed by the provision of § 595-260. Appeals to Court from the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board may be taken by an aggrieved party.
(1) 
The landowner shall make a written request to the Zoning Hearing Board or Council that it hold a hearing on his challenge. The request shall contain a short statement reasonably informing the Board or the Council of the matters that are an issue and the grounds for the challenge. Such statement shall contain a certification that the landowner did not know at the time of the application:
(a) 
That the City had resolved to consider a particular scheme of rezoning by publication of notice of hearing on a proposed Comprehensive Plan or proposed zoning ordinance or otherwise; or
(b) 
That the scheme of rezoning would be inconsistent with the landowner's proposed use, provided that this rezoning scheme had reached sufficient particularity to disclose that, if adopted, it would cure the defect in the zoning ordinance attached by the substantive challenge.
B. 
The request may be submitted at any time after the ordinance or map takes effect, but if an application for a permit or approval is denied thereunder, the request shall be made not later than the time provided for appeal from the denial thereof. In such case, if the landowner elects to make the request to Council and the request is timely, the time within which he/she may seek review of the denial of the permit or approval on other issues shall not begin to run until his/her request to Council is finally disposed of.
C. 
The requests shall be accompanied by plans and other materials describing the use of development proposed by the landowner in lieu of the map or development permitted by the challenged ordinance or map. Such plans and other materials shall not be required to meet the standards prescribed for preliminary, tentative or final approval or for the issuance of a permit so long as they provide reasonable notice of the proposed use or development and a sufficient basis for evaluating the challenged ordinance or map in the light thereof. Nothing contained herein shall preclude the landowner from first seeking a final permit or approval before submitting his challenge to the Board or Council.
D. 
If the submission is made to Council under Subsection A(2) hereof, the request shall be accompanied by an amendment or amendments to the ordinance proposed by the landowner to cure the alleged defects therein.
E. 
Notice of the hearing required by this chapter shall include notice that the validity of the ordinance or map is in question and shall give the place where and the times when a copy of the landowner's request, including the plans submitted pursuant to Subsection B(3) hereof and the proposed amendments, if any, submitted under Subsection B(4) hereof may be examined by the public.
F. 
The Board or Council, as the case may be, shall hold a hearing upon the landowner's request commencing not later than 60 days after the request is filed unless the landowner requests or consents to an extension of time.
G. 
The landowner's request of a curative amendment is denied when:
(1) 
Council notifies the landowner that it will not adopt the amendment;
(2) 
Council adopts another amendment which is unacceptable to the landowner; or
(3) 
Council fails to act on the landowner's request, in which event the denial is deemed to have occurred on the 30th day after the close of the last hearing on the request unless the time is extended by mutual consent between the landowner and the City.
A. 
Zoning appeals shall be entered as of course by the prothonotary or clerk upon the filing of a zoning appeal notice which concisely sets forth the ground on which the appellant relies. The appeal notice need not be verified. The zoning appeal notice shall be accompanied by a true copy thereof.
B. 
Upon filing of a zoning appeal, the prothonotary or clerk shall forthwith as of course send to Council, board or agency whose decision or action has been appealed, by registered or certified mail, the copy of the zoning appeal notice together with a writ of certiorari commanding such Council, board or agency within 20 days after receipt thereof to certify to the Court its entire record in the matter in which the zoning appeal has been taken, or a true and complete copy thereof, including any transcript of testimony in existence and available to Council, board or agency at the time it received the writ of certiorari.
C. 
If the appellant is a person other than the landowner of the land directly involved in the decision or action appealed from, the appellant within seven days after the zoning appeal is filed shall serve a true copy of the zoning appeal notice by mailing such notice to the landowner or his attorney at his last known address. For identification of such landowner, the appellant may rely upon the records of the City and, in the event of good faith mistakes as to such identity, may make such service nunc pro tunc by leave of court.
D. 
The filing of an appeal in Court under this section shall not stay the action appealed from, but the appellants may petition the Court having jurisdiction of zoning appeals for a stay. If the appellants are persons who are seeking to prevent a use or development of the land of another, whether or not a stay is sought by them, the landowner whose use or development is in question may petition the Court to order the appellants to post bond as a condition to proceeding with the appeal. After the petition is presented, the Court shall hold a hearing to determine if the filing of the appeal is frivolous and is for the purpose of delay. At the hearing, evidence may be presented on the merits of the case. After consideration of all evidence presented, it shall grant the petition. 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. The question of the amount of the bond shall be within the sound discretion of the Court.
Within the 30 days first following the filing of a zoning appeal, if the appeal is from a board or agency of the City, the City and any owner or tenant of property directly involved in the action appealed from may intervene as of course by filing a notice of intervention, accompanied by proof of service of the same upon each appellant or each appellant's counsel of record. All other interventions shall be governed by the rules of civil procedure.
If upon motion it is shown that proper consideration of the zoning appeal requires the presentation of additional evidence, a judge of the Court may hold a hearing to receive additional evidence or may remand the case to the body, agency or officer whose decision or order has been brought up for review or may refer the case to a referee to receive additional evidence, provided that appeals brought before the Court pursuant to §§ 595-259 and 595-260 shall not be remanded for further hearings before any body, agency or officer of the City. If the record below includes findings of fact made by Council or a board or agency whose decision or action is brought up for review and the Court does not take additional evidence or appoint a referee to take additional evidence, findings of Council or a board or agency shall not be disturbed by the Court if supported by substantial evidence. If the record does not include findings of fact made by Council or a board or agency whose decision or action is brought up for review and the Court does not take additional evidence or appoint a referee to take additional evidence, findings of Council or a board or agency shall not be disturbed by the Court if supported by substantial evidence. If the record does not include findings of fact or if additional evidence is taken by the Court or by a referee, the Court may make its own findings of fact based on the record below as supplemented by the additional evidence, if any.
A. 
In a zoning appeal the Court shall have power to declare any ordinance or map invalid and set aside or modify any action, decision or order of Council, agency or officer of the City brought up on appeal only if it determines that:
(1) 
The City has not acted in good faith or made a bona fide attempt in the adoption of its ordinances or maps, or any amendments thereto, to meet the statutory and constitutional requirements of nonexclusionary zoning.
(2) 
The ordinance imposes limitations that are not reasonably related to the City's authority to determine its physical growth pattern, protect the commonwealth's public national resources, coordinate development with the provision of public services or protect the character of the community.
(3) 
If the Court in accordance with the standards provided in Subsection A hereof finds that an ordinance or map or a decision or order thereunder which has been brought up for review unlawfully prevents or restricts a development or use which has been described by the landowner through plans and other materials submitted to Council, or an agency or officer of the City whose action or failure to act in question on the appeal, it may order the described development or use approved as to all elements or it may order it approved as to some elements and refer other elements to Council or an agency or officer having jurisdiction thereof for further proceedings, including the adoption of alternative restrictions in accordance with the Court's opinion and order. In issuing its order, the Court shall consider the following:
(a) 
The location suitability of the site for the uses proposed, including the general location of the site with regard to major roads, sewer facilities, water supplies, schools and other public service facilities or the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance of the City and the county;
(b) 
The impact of the proposal on regional housing needs, the transportation network, and the other public services and facilities;
(c) 
The suitability of the site for the intensity of use proposed by the site's soil, slopes, woodland, wetlands, floodplains, aquifers, natural resources and other natural features;
(d) 
The impact of the proposed use on the site's soils, slopes, woodlands, wetlands, floodplains, natural resources and natural features, the degree to which these are protected or destroyed, the tolerance of the resources to development and any adverse environmental impacts; and
(e) 
The impact of the proposal on the preservation of agriculture and other land uses which are essential to public health and welfare.
B. 
Upon motion by any of the parties or upon motion by the Court, the judge of the Court may hold a hearing or hearings to receive additional evidence or employ experts to aid the Court to frame an appropriate order. If the Court employs an expert, the report or evidence of such expert shall be available to any party and he/she shall be subject to examination or cross-examination by any party. He/she shall be paid reasonable compensation for his services, which may be assessed against any or all of the parties as determined by the Court. The Court shall retain jurisdiction of the appeal during the pendency of any such further proceedings and may, upon motion of the landowner, issue such supplementary orders as it deems necessary to protect the rights of the landowner as declared in its opinion and order.
C. 
The fact that the plans and other materials referred to in Subsection B hereof are not in a form or are not accompanied by other submissions which are required for final approval of the development or use in question or for the issuance of permits shall not prevent the Court from granting the definitive relief authorized in Subsection A hereof, and the Court may act upon preliminary or sketch plans by framing its decree to take into account the need for further submissions before final approval is granted.
D. 
No Court shall grant or enforce relief with response to a substantive challenge without first making an affirmative finding of fact that the landowner's certification required by § 595-259B(1) has in fact been made and is true and correct.