The Process of Constructing BillboardsAugust 2014 – Articles In the Zone
In the case of Chester County Outdoor, LLC v. Board of Supervisors of Penn Township, the Commonwealth Court, in an unreported decision, dismissed a lawsuit filed by the applicant seeking site specific relief to construct billboards in the Township.
By way of brief background, the applicant filed a challenge to the substantive validity of the Township’s Zoning Ordinance with the ZHB alleging that Section 1800.G of the Zoning Ordinance unlawfully excluded billboards. The Township intervened in the challenge and agreed with the applicant’s position; thereafter, the ZHB issued a decision and order sustaining the applicant’s validity challenge. For reasons not explained in the opinion, during the proceedings before the ZHB, the applicant withdrew its request for site specific relief and its accompanying plans for billboards. Nevertheless, in its decision, the ZHB held that the applicant would not be entitled to the site specific relief depicted in its application because the plans would not comply with various unchallenged sections of the Zoning Ordinance. This ZHB decision was upheld by both the Court of Common Pleas and Commonwealth Court. Thereafter, the applicant filed the instant declaratory judgment action seeking site specific relief. For a host of reasons referenced in the decision, the Commonwealth Court upheld the opinion of the lower court and dismissed the applicant’s attempt to “circumvent” the underlying ZHB process and commence a separate declaratory judgment action for site specific relief.
In summary, this case is a lesson for applicants to first submit a sketch plan application in an attempt to have the Township identify all non-compliant provisions so that the applicant has the best possible information as to the provisions that need to be challenged. A thorough review by the applicant’s engineer and legal counsel is also recommended as well.