Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 19, 2017

PA Appeals Court Finds Bias Allegation Waived Where Township Solicitor Acted as Advocate For Both the Applicant and the Township and Board’s Refusal to Admit Certain Evidence Did Not Constitute Bias or Impropriety

In 2014, St. Francis Home filed an application for a permit to build a single-family dwelling for terminally ill individuals and another application for a permit to construct a curb, sidewalk, and driveway entrance for this dwelling. Both permits were approved. Plaintiffs, who owned property neighboring the proposed dwelling, appealed the issuance of both permits. The zoning hearing board denied the appeal.

Plaintiffs appealed the board’s decision, alleging, among other things, that the Township Solicitor acting as an advocate for both the Township and St. Francis Home created an appearance of bias and/or impropriety, and that the zoning hearing board’s refusal to admit evidence regarding traffic congestion and decreased property values amounted to bias. The court held that because Plaintiffs did not object to the Solicitor’s statements regarding his own experiences at the hearing, they waived their argument regarding the Solicitor’s role. Additionally, the court held that the zoning board’s refusal to admit evidence regarding traffic and property values did not constitute bias and/or impropriety because such evidence was irrelevant to a case about the issuance of building and construction permits. Thus, the board’s decision to not admit this evidence was not improper.

Hartman v. Zoning Hearing Bd. of Cumru Twp., 133 A.3d 806, 807–08 (Pa. Commw. Ct.), appeal denied, 141 A.3d 483 (Pa. 2016).

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