Real Estate Journal — Owners, Developers & Managers — March 25 - April 14, 2016 — 3B


M id A tlantic

O wners , D evelopers & M anagers Your authority in reviewing development plans is not unlimited Big victory in property rights case sends message to Pennsylvania Municipalities


recent Commonwealth Court decision reaf- firmed the principle

Board of Supervisors, designed to prevent land development applications from being ac- cepted into the review cycle. The Township used this new policy to reject applications out of hand as “incomplete” and then refused to meet with the applicants to discuss the plan or make revisions. On appeal to the Common- wealth Court, Attorney Marc Kaplin took on the Township of Honey Brook, arguing that the Township’s bad faith ac- tions and improper course of conduct violated its legal obliga- tion to proceed in good faith in

reviewing and processing land development plans. The Com- monwealth Court agreed, and remanded the application back to the Township, instructing the Township to process and review the land development plans under the zoning in effect on the date the land development plans were originally submitted. This victory is the third deci- sion from the Commonwealth Court reversing the denial of a land development plan based on a municipality’s refusal to process the application in good faith. The Commonwealth Court decision reinforced the

duty to review development plans in good faith, including the municipality’s obligation to discuss technical requirements and ordinance interpretations with an applicant and to afford an applicant a reasonable op- portunity to respond to objec- tions by the municipality and/ or to modify its plans to address concerns. The message the Commonwealth Court sent is clear: municipalities cannot act in bad faith to deprive property owners of their constitutionally- protected property rights. June P. Singh is an asso- ciate in both the Land Use

and Construction Litigation practice groups at Kaplin Stewart. In the Land Use & Zoning de- partment, June works on secur- ing governmental and agency approvals for zoning, subdivi- sion, and land development applications for residential and commercial developments at the municipal, state, and fed- eral levels, as well as appellate advocacy to the Courts of Com- mon Pleas, the Commonwealth Court, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Ms. Singh can be reached at 610.941.2532 or by email at jsingh@kaplaw.com n

that munici- palities must act in good f a i th when p r o c e s s i n g land develop- ment applica- tions. P r o p e r t y r i g h t s a r e

June Singh

protected by the Pennsylvania Constitution. Our state courts have long held that property rights are natural, inherent rights than cannot be infringed upon. But for many developers going through the municipal review process in Pennsylvania, it can seem like those rights are subject to the whims and desires of the municipality. Certainly, this was the case in Honey Brook Township. After deciding to down-zone proper- ties to prevent development in a certain area, the Township engaged in a systemic course of conduct specifically designed to prevent property owners from vesting their development rights while the zoning amend- ment was pending. The Township intentionally kept its pending zoning amend- ment secret to prevent sub- missions of land development applications before the zoning could be officially changed. Further, the Township Man- ager unilaterally instituted a new stringent review policy, without the approval of the

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Owners, Developers & Managers

a section of the MARE Journal P.O. Box 26, Accord, MA 02018 781-871-5298 • 800-584-1062 fax 781-871-5299 www.marejournal.com Section Publisher Steve Kelley skelley@marejournal.com

Contact: JUNE P. SINGH • jsingh@kaplaw.com 910 Harvest Drive, Blue Bell, PA 19422-0765 • (610) 941-2532 • www.kaplaw.com Visit our Real Estate Blog: www.philadelphiarealestatelaw.com Visit our Construction Blog: www.pennsylvaniaconstructionlawyer.com Other Offices: Cherry Hill, NJ 856-675-1550 • Philadelphia, PA 215-567-3120 Kaplin Stewart At torneys at Law

Section Editor Karen Vachon kjoy@marejournal.com

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