Recent PA Commonwealth Court Decision Addresses Timing Issues of Appeals of Zoning Hearing Board Decisions

August 2013Articles In the Zone

In the recent Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court decision of Schmader v. Cranberry Township Board of Supervisors, 67 A.3d 881, the court addresses timing issues related to the filing of an appeal of a zoning hearing board decision to a Court of Common Pleas.

In this case, involving an appeal to the zoning hearing board regarding the operation of a business in a residential district, the zoning hearing board issued a decision dated March 30, 2012. The appellant received the decision on April 3, 2012, and filed an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas on May 2, 2012. Cranberry Township intervened, and, along with the zoning hearing board, filed a motion to quash the appeal as being untimely. The township argued the decision was mailed on March 30, 2012, and the appellant was required to file an appeal within 30 days of that date. The appellant argued that the zoning hearing board had a duty to formally notify him of the date of mailing of the decision of the zoning hearing board, as that date started the 30-day appeal period. The Court of Common Pleas quashed the appellant’s appeal, and the appellant filed an appeal to the Commonwealth Court.

The appellant argued that the Court of Common Pleas ignored relevant case law and asserted that the zoning hearing board was required to include in its decision notification of the actual mailing date and that the zoning hearing board’s failure to provide such notice requires that the appellant be given 30 days to file an appeal from the date that the appellant received the zoning hearing board decision.

Relying on cases addressing the timing of appeals in administrative actions, the court held it was “incumbent on the Board to include in the notification of its decision the actual date on which the decision was mailed.” The court also agreed with a prior Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that held it would be “manifestly unjust” to dismiss an appeal where the agency failed to inform the party of the mailing date.

In conclusion, the court held that because of the zoning hearing board’s failure to include a mailing date on its decision, the appellant was justified in filing his appeal within 30 days of receipt of the zoning hearing board’s decision.

Based on the court’s decision in this matter, I would imagine that zoning hearing board decisions in the future will all include a line identifying the mailing date of the decision. Currently, many agencies, such as various boards of assessment in Pennsylvania, already specifically list a mailing date on their decisions to avoid any potential issues regarding the calculation of an appeal period for a party to file an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas.

View the entire issue of In the Zone (pdf)