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Metal Green Inc. v. City of Philadelphia

Pennsylvania Supreme Court

December 22, 2021

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered the correct legal standard to be applied when considering an application for a “use variance” under the Philadelphia Zoning Code, as well as the appropriate standard of review for such determinations. Mt. Airy USA commenced a legal action against Metal Green pursuant to the 2008 Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act. The Court of Common Pleas declared the property to be blighted and abandoned and ordered Metal Green to remediate the hazards that the property posed to the community. Metal Green submitted to the City Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) a redevelopment plan and application for the approval of a building permit. L&I denied the application, and Metal Green appealed the denial to the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment (“Zoning Board”) seeking a use variance. The Zoning Board denied the variance request. Metal Green appealed to the Court of Common Pleas. The trial court reversed the Zoning Board’s decision and granted the requested variance. The Commonwealth Court reversed. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part. The Court held that “in light of the plain and unambiguous language of the Philadelphia Zoning Code, as amended in 2013, the minimum variance requirement applies equally to dimensional and use variances. Furthermore, we conclude that the minimum variance requirement in the Philadelphia Zoning Code may not be relaxed for blighted or abandoned properties; rather, considerations of blight or abandonment must be addressed under the Code’s unnecessary hardship requirement.” The Court then reaffirmed the standard of review in zoning matters for an abuse of discretion, consistent with Wintermyer v. WCAB, 812 A.2d 478 (Pa. 2002). But the Court allowed for review of a zoning board’s decision for a capricious disregard of the evidence as part of the traditional standard of review.

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