Can Township Solicitors Extend Time Periods for Zoning Hearing Board Appeals?
Martin v. Zoning Hearing Board of West Vincent Township. 686 C.D. 2019 involves whether the Township can extend the time period for an appeal of a zoning enforcement notice.
The Township Zoning Officer issued a Notice of Violation to the property owners on March 22, 2016 for various ordinance violations relating to the use of the property. After receiving the notice, the property owners ceased all questionable activities on the property. The property owners worked with the Township to negotiate a settlement of the Notice of Violation. The Township Solicitor agreed to extend the appeal time and consented to subsequent appeal period extensions during the settlement negotiations. More than a year after issuance of the Notice of Violation property owners filed an appeal with the Zoning Hearing Board.
Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code Section 914.1(b) requires that “all appeals from determinations adverse to the landowners shall be filed by the landowner within 30 days after notice of the determination is issued.” The Township Solicitor did not have the apparent authority to extend the deadline because the Zoning Hearing Board was the body which would review the appeal. Therefore, the property owners could not have reasonably relied on this appearance of authority. In addition, the property owners were represented by an attorney “who could not have reasonably relied on the Township’s Solicitor’s representations when such were contrary to the well-established legal precedent that ‘parties [may not] confer subject matter jurisdiction on a court or tribunal by agreement or stipulation.’”
Because the property owners appeal was filed after the 30-day appeal period, the Zoning Hearing Board lacked jurisdiction over the appeal. Thus, the trial court and the Commonwealth Court also lacked jurisdiction over the subsequent appeals.
This article is not legal advice and is provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.