Radnor Township Zoning Hearing Board Decision Reversed in Court to Allow Bed & Breakfast in Residential Zone

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in on Nov 1, 2016.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court declared the Radnor Township Zoning Ordinance invalid because it excluded bed and breakfasts within the Township. Thomason v. Zoning Hearing Board of the Township of Radnor, 26 A.3d 562 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2011). As a result site-specific relief was granted to allow the bed and breakfast in the residential zoning district in which it was proposed.

In Thomason the owners of a three-story 100 + year old Victorian, eight bedroom, five and one-half bathroom home set on one acre filed a substantive validity challenge claiming that the Radnor Township Zoning Ordinance impermissibly excluded bed and breakfasts. The Township Zoning Hearing Board denied the challenge finding that the bed and breakfast was permitted in other areas of the Township as a “rooming house” or a “hotel, motel, or inn”. The Court found that a bed and breakfast did not fall under the “rooming house” or “hotel, motel or inn” definitions and was not otherwise permitted in the Township. Based on that determination the Court held that the Zoning Ordinance was invalid for failing to permit this legitimate business use.

This case specifically demonstrates that bed and breakfasts are recognized as a legitimate business that must be provided for in a zoning ordinance. In broader terms it reiterates some key zoning principles. That is, where a zoning ordinance totally prohibits a legitimate business use, the courts will strike it down unless the municipality can justify the ban and its connection to a protected public interest. Thus, if a proposed use is not provided for in the zoning ordinance it may be possible to win site-specific approval via a validity challenge. This route may be preferable to seeking variances or other approvals.

George Broseman has years of experience in obtaining land use, zoning & land development permits and approvals. The prestigious Best Lawyers organization has recognized George’s level of expertise by selecting him for inclusion in the Best Lawyers in America in the field of Land Use & Zoning Law. If you need assistance obtaining a zoning/development approval contact George at 610.941.2459 or gbroseman@kaplaw.com. For further biographical information view his profile at www.kaplaw.com.