Sylvia Swede called it an “unbearable” situation.
She and her husband had lived next door to Calabrette Excavating in Richland Township for years without any complaints. Then one day, the trucks started showing up, bringing noise and dust.
They needed help, so they sought the services of a Doylestown land use lawyer and turned to the firm of Benner and Wild.
The township zoning board took notice as well. In April 2016, neighbor complaints led Richard Brittingham, the township zoning officer, to investigate the property.
There, he found mulch pallets stored on the land and trucks that were unconnected to Calabrette’s business parked on the property.
Neither of those things were permitted uses for the property, leading Brittingham to issue an enforcement notice to Calabrette.
Calabrette appealed the notice and also applied for precautionary variance to the Richland zoning hearing board.
Company owner Frederick Calabrette would later testify that he leased parts of his property to the mulch company and to the truck drivers because he wanted to bring in some extra income.
Sylvia Swede testified as well. She told the board that the road in front of her property is roughly 18 feet wide, not wide enough for a car and tractor trailer to pass each other without one of the vehicles having to pull off to the side.
Beyond that, Sylvia testified that the situation had become unbearable – citing the noise and dust created by the truck traffic – and dangerous. The trucks were preventing her from walking along the road with her dog or her grandchildren.
In the end, the zoning board granted Calabrette’s variance request, and the Swedes appealed to the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas, which upheld the board’s ruling last year.
Benner and Wild then appealed to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on the Swede family’s behalf.
William Benner, who represented the Swedes, argued that the county court made an error at law by upholding the zoning decision, because Calabrette had not shown evidence that strict application of the zoning ordinance deprived the property of all reasonable use. He also brought to the court’s attention that economic hardship cannot support a use variance. In April, the Commonwealth Court issued its ruling, reversing the county court’s decision.
Bill says he is proud of the work he did on the Swedes’ behalf and is pleased that the Commonwealth Court reversed the errors made by the Bucks County court relying on the arguments he advanced on Swede’s behalf.
This case serves as a reminder of why you need an experienced Doylestown land use lawyer by your side in zoning matters.
The attorneys at Benner and Wild can help you through this often long, complicated process. The firm has spent decades helping both businesses that wanted to expand as well as homeowners trying to protect their properties.
If you’re seeking a Doylestown land use lawyer, contact Benner and Wild today to find out how the firm can help you, your family or your business protect your rights.