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High school auditorium zoning dispute nears resolution

7/20/2011 | Real Estate Blog

Almost every construction and development project in Pennsylvania needs to go through a series of legal processes. One of the most important steps in getting a project underway involves getting approval from a governmental zoning agency.

Broadly, zoning is the way state and local governments regulate the use of land. Land is divided into zones, and different uses of land are divided into different zones. Zoning laws are the reason why you can’t build a steel mill in a residential neighborhood. In practice, zoning laws set limits on the size and type of structure that can be built on any given piece of land and they specify the density of development that is allowed.

Recently, the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District was involved in a dispute with East Marlborough Township over the height of a new auditorium at Unionville High School. The township told the school district that its 58-foot-tall auditorium was higher than the 35-foot maximum height specified in the zoning code. The township told the school district that it needed to obtain a variance, a one-time exception to the zoning rules, in order to use and occupy a structure that tall. The school district argued that the township was misinterpreting the zoning law.

Earlier this month, the school district and the township agreed to a joint stipulation of fact at a meeting of the local Zoning Hearing Board. The stipulation acknowledges the importance of the building to the community and acknowledges that it would not be possible to fit the auditorium’s stage inside of a shorter building.

The parties involved in the zoning dispute believe that the stipulation clears the way for the zoning board to grant a variance for the auditorium. The board is scheduled to decide whether to grant the variance on August 1.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “East Marlborough and schools resolve a zoning dispute,” Anthony Campisi, 9 July 2011