Posted by: Patricia Salkin | October 19, 2015

PA Commwlth Court Finds Landowner Had Standing to Appeal Zoning Hearing Board’s Decision Granting Wireless Tower Company’s Request for a Variance

Pegasus Tower Co., Ltd. filed an application with the Zoning Hearing Board of the City of Easton (ZHB), seeking to replace a preexisting monopole with a 195–foot high monopole, containing eighteen communication panels, on land next to Appellants’ property. In its application, Pegasus requested, under the applicable ordinance, to convert one nonconforming use to another non-conforming use and an attendant variance. Thomas L. Walters and Nancy L. Walters (Appellants) appealed from the June 30, 2014 order of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, holding that Appellants lacked standing to appeal the land-use decision of the ZHB. 

Because Walters was an adjoining property owner it was presumed he was directly and adversely affected by the zoning decision and therefore met the second prong of standing. The issue in this case was whether Walters sufficiently participated in the ZHB proceedings. Walters appeared, testified, and submitted a photograph to dispute Calabretta’s statement that the tower has the least amount of impact, in terms of physical presence, on those that live closest to it. This specifically related to Pegasus’ burden to prove, under the ordinance, that the monopole would not have a negative impact on or alter the essential character of the neighborhood. The court therefore concluded that the method and manner of Walters’ form of opposition constituted adequate participation before the ZHB hearing so as to confer standing. Furthermore, the record demonstrated that the ZHB did not require a party to enter a formal appearance in writing on forms provided by the ZHB, and the ZHB did not announce at the hearing official procedures to be followed for one to attain party status. Accordingly, because the court held that Walters possessed standing to appeal because he sufficiently participated during the ZHB proceedings and acquired the status of a party, it reversed the trial court’s order and remanded. 

Walters v Zoning Hearing Board of the City of Easton, 2015 WL 5844280 (PA Commwlth 10/8/2015)



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