Tuesday, December 31, 2013

PA Northern Distributors, Inc. v. Zoning Hearing Board case brief

PA Northern Distributors, Inc. v. Zoning Hearing Board case brief summary
584 A.2d 1372 (1991)

Appellant sought review of an order of the Commonwealth Court (Pennsylvania), which affirmed dismissal of appeal from a zoning board decision upholding the validity of an amortization provision in an ordinance affecting appellant's business.

Appellant opened an adult bookstore in appellee township. Thereafter, appellee township enacted an ordinance making appellant's bookstore a nonconforming land use in its then location; the ordinance contained an amortization provision that would have required appellant to cease its business within 90 days.


  • The state supreme court reversed appellee zoning board's determination that the amortization provision was valid. 
  • The court held that the amortization and discontinuance of a lawful pre-existing nonconforming land use was per se confiscatory and violative of the Pennsylvania Constitution. 
  • There was no evidence that appellant's bookstore violated obscenity laws or was in any other way unlawful, constituted a nuisance, or was abandoned. 
  • Thus, appellee township's ordinance was unconstitutional on its face, as it allowed an unconstitutional "taking" of appellant's property without just compensation.
Order reversed, as amortization provision in appellee township's zoning ordinance was facially unconstitutional where it required the discontinuance of appellant's lawful pre-existing nonconforming land use without providing just compensation.

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