In an earlier blog post, we discussed how the Commonwealth Court found that a Stroud Township ordinance prohibiting the unauthorized discharge of firearms in the Township did not pass constitutional muster. The Township only permitted shooting ranges in two of the Township’s zoning districts and required a minimum lot size of five acres for
Several polls indicate that housing affordability continues to be a major issue across the nation.
As discussed in past blog posts, the Federal and state and local governments continue pushing for changes in zoning regulations to ensure that more housing units are affordable to more people in more areas.
In support of that goal, several communities, including Pittsburgh, are pursuing an approach called inclusionary zoning to ensure that residential developments include a minimum amount of housing units that are affordable to low- or moderate-income residents. The idea behind inclusionary zoning is to create mixed-income developments and neighborhoods. Municipalities are seeking to achieve inclusionary zoning by implementing either voluntary or mandatory zoning regulations.Continue Reading Inclusionary Zoning: Carrots Taste Better and Aren’t as Painful as Sticks
In its recent decision, Appeal of Best Homes DDJ, LLC, 239-40 C.D. 2020 (Dec. 23, 2021), the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court considered, among other issues, whether MS4 fees imposed by the City of Chester Stormwater Authority constituted an impermissible tax. The case involved a challenge by certain rate/fee-payers that the Authority’s “fees” were actually “taxes”…
The Commonwealth Court recently found that a Stroud Township ordinance prohibiting the unauthorized discharge of firearms in the Township did not pass constitutional muster. The constitutionality of the ordinance was challenged by a Township resident who had submitted a permit application for a proposed shooting range on his property that was denied by the Township zoning officer. The resident’s property was located in the Township’s R-1 Low Density Residential Zoning District. The ordinance in question permitted the discharging of firearms at shooting ranges but only at locations where the use is permitted by the Township’s zoning ordinance. The zoning ordinance permits shooting ranges in two of the
Continue Reading Shooting Ranges Are Protected Under the Second Amendment
Since the 1920s, a large sign has overlooked downtown Pittsburgh from nearby Mount Washington. Mount Washington is well known for its funiculars, the Monongahela Incline and the Duquesne Incline. Recently, it has also been known for the controversial sign which has been at the center of an ongoing dispute between the City of Pittsburgh and Lamar, the owner of the sign. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in Lamar Advantage GP Company, LLC v. City of Pittsburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment, et al., recently resolved the dispute in favor of Lamar.
The sign at issue is a large concrete structure. From the 1930s to 2016, the larger concrete sign structure supported a smaller electronic display. In 2014, Lamar proposed
Continue Reading Supreme Court: Yinz Can Keep Your Sign
Every trial lawyer knows that credibility determinations are typically left to the finder of fact. Whether it’s a jury, a judge, or a zoning hearing board, the finder of fact has the opportunity to personally observe the witnesses who present evidence in a matter. As a result- so the theory goes- reviewing courts should defer to those first-person observers rather than trying to substitute their judgment after merely reading the transcript. But what are the limits of this deferential standard?
Recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court positioned itself to address this issue in the context of a land use appeal when it granted allocator in the case of Project PT v. Penn Township Zoning Hearing Board and Olympus Energy LLC. The Project PT case originated in Penn Township (“Township”), Westmoreland County, where unconventional natural gas development (often referred to as “fracking”) is permitted by
Continue Reading PA Supreme Court to Consider Concept of “Credibility” in Fracking Case
In two earlier blog posts from 2018, found here and here, we discussed the 2018 FCC Order, including the fee standards and “shot clocks” that were adopted by the FCC. Of particular interest to municipalities were the fee standards and the safe harbor fees that municipalities are permitted to charge for small cell facilities. To recap, the 2018 The FCC Order addressed three types of fees charged by municipalities: (1) fees for access to the public rights-of-way; (2) fees for the use of governmental property located in the public rights-of-way; and, (3) application review fees. The safe harbor fees under the 2018 FCC Order are
Continue Reading Small Cell Facilities in the Public Rights-of-Way: The Ninth Circuit Weighs In
Overview of Force Majeure
With COVID-19 headlines dominating the news cycle, and with no end in sight to the uncertainty that the virus brings, affected businesses are wise to consider whether the current pandemic qualifies as a “force majeure.” In the last few weeks, the Chinese government has issued “force majeure certificates” to domestic businesses as a way of shielding companies from breach of contract claims, American businesses are sending mass e-mails to customers explaining that the virus prevents the company’s performance or operations, and businesses in an array of industries have sent formal inquiries to their service providers seeking confirmation of continued performance.
What is “Force Majeure”
The defense of force majeure will excuse a party’s performance under a contract if
Continue Reading Force Majeure Provisions and the Impacts of COVID-19
In the 2007 film There Will Be Blood, Eli Sunday offers to sell Daniel Plainview the drilling rights to land of the recently-deceased William Bandy. Plainview mocks Sunday’s offer, revealing that he has already drained Bandy’s land dry of oil, and the land is now worthless. To illustrate, Plainview uses the analogy of reaching a straw across the room to drink Sunday’s imaginary milkshake. Plainview shouts “I drink your milkshake . . . I drink it up!” in Sunday’s face.
The practice of draining hydrocarbons from beneath an adjoining property is nothing new and is subject to the legal concept known as “the rule of capture.” In the context of oil and gas law, the rule of capture precludes liability for draining oil and gas from under another’s property so long as there has been no trespass. In Pennsylvania, a trespass occurs when a person intrudes onto property owned by someone else without their consent or places an object on someone’s property without their consent. On January 22, 2020, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania declared that protection under the rule of capture applies to hydraulic fracturing, i.e. “fracking.” More specifically, developers who use hydraulic fracturing may rely on pressure differential
Continue Reading I Drink Your Milkshake! Fracking and the Rule of Capture
Sometimes, the storm hits years after a development is complete. Indeed, stormwater runoff can give rise to liability against a developer long after stormwater management facilities are constructed according to an approved final plan. Accordingly, it is important for developers to understand (1) how trespass is applied in the stormwater context and (2) that they might never be fully insulated from such claims.
Pennsylvania follows the “common-enemy rule” with respect to stormwater runoff. Under the Rule, an “upper” landowner may discharge its stormwater on the land of a “lower” landowner. However, water artificially diverted from its natural channel across a “lower” landowner’s property can be considered a trespass. In that case,
Continue Reading Water Flows Downhill – Liability Flows Up