PA Supreme Court Decision Major Zoning Win for Townships 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled this week in In re Appeal of Charlestown Outdoor, LLC that municipalities do not have to change their zoning ordinances to account for later-issued government regulations or other development that may render a use impossible. 
In this case, the township permitted billboards in a single zoning district that fronts the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Years after the ordinance was adopted, PennDOT added an interchange that connected a state road to the Turnpike. PennDOT regulations prohibit billboards within 500 feet of an interstate interchange. Taken together, the zoning district, the new interchange, and the 500-foot rule effectively prohibited billboards in that zoning district and, by extension, the entire township. 

The billboard company challenged the ordinance as “de facto exclusionary” on the basis that billboards were not permitted anywhere in the township. 

The Supreme Court disagreed. It stated that if the billboard company’s position prevailed, “it would impose a constitutional obligation on municipalities continuously to review and update their zoning ordinances to account for government regulations and the impact of development by third parties, and to ensure their various uses are permitted and possible in the municipality.”  

Finding no such duty, the court held that “[m]unicipalities have no duty to review and revise their zoning ordinances or to rezone for a particular use where a property owner’s use is limited by third parties, including through governmental regulations beyond the municipality’s control.” 

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