Posted by: Patricia Salkin | June 29, 2021

Fed Dist Court in PA Upholds Denial of Permits for Drug and Alcohol Step-Down Facility

This post was authored by Matthew Loescher, Esq.

Plaintiffs Mountainside Manor Real Estate Associates, LLC, 3856 SR Highway Properties, LLC, and New Horizons at Dallas, LLC, filed their complaint against defendant Dallas Township on March 30, 2020, regarding the property located in a commercial area and is zoned as a B-2 Zone (Highway Commercial Zoning District) under the Dallas Township Zoning Ordinance. On the subject property there were two “U” shaped buildings that had historically shared common utilities, such as plumbing, sanitary sewer, access drives, and parking spaces. The northern building on the property was converted to a Step-Down facility, focusing on drug and alcohol addiction treatment for its residents, which was not a permitted use within the B-2 zoning district of the Ordinance. Plaintiffs therefore sought to obtain copies of the permits and approvals for the already existing Step-Down facility in the northerly building, to assist the new permit application; however, the Township Zoning Officer, Carl Adler, denied the application and directed plaintiffs to appeal the decision to the Township Zoning Hearing Board. The Zoning Hearing Board voted to deny the appeal.

 On appeal, the court first noted that while defendant did not have the records regarding the existing Step-Down facility, plaintiffs did not sufficiently explain how this specific action was discriminatory in nature. Moreover, the initial denial of the permit application and subsequent appeal to the Zoning Hearing Board were also found not discriminatory as they were steps in the permitting process that could happen to any applicant. Lastly, defendant’s actions did not limit the residents’ opportunity to enjoy the property as it was still in operation. Accordingly, the court determined that there was not a plausible claim for relief for a violation of the FHA. Similarly, the facts alleged by plaintiffs did not suggest a violation of the ADA as they did not demonstrate that defendant’s conduct was in response to the residents’ disability.

 Plaintiffs next contended that defendant intentionally treated plaintiffs’ request differently than other similarly situated entities, such as the personal care home. The court rejected this claim, because Step-Down facilities were not included in the B-2 Zone, and there was therefore a rational and non-discriminatory reason that the application was denied. As to plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment claim, Plaintiffs were still able to possess and maintain their property in the manner that it was before, containing both personal care and Step-Down facilities. Thus, Plaintiffs had not lost all economic benefit from the property. Accordingly, the court held that there was not a claim upon which relief can be granted for a violation of the 5th Amendment.

 Mountainside Manor Real Real Estate Associates, LLC v Dallas Township, 2021 WL 2662134 (MD PA 6/29/2021)

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