Mar 22, 2019

Three Eastburn and Gray Attorneys Succeed in Exclusionary Zoning Challenge on Behalf of Real Estate Developer Client

John A. VanLuvanee, Julie L. Von Spreckelsen and Zachary A. Sivertsen successfully represented The Verrichia Company (“Verrichia”) on an exclusionary zoning challenge related to a commercial real estate development project in Plumstead Township, Bucks County. The Court’s decision to sustain the challenge is significant because it recognizes “retail stores with fuel dispensing facilities” as a distinct and legitimate land use; invalidating Plumstead Township’s zoning ordinance as exclusionary.

Senior Judge Robert J. Shenkin of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, issued an order sustaining a substantive validity challenge, filed on behalf of Verrichia, to the Plumstead Township Zoning Ordinance. Judge Shenkin ruled that a retail store selling motor vehicle fuels was a legitimate business that could not be completely excluded from the Township. The Township Zoning Ordinance permitted a gasoline service station use with up to 2,000 square feet of retail sales space. However, Judge Shenkin found that the proposed convenience store with motor vehicle fuel sales was an entirely different, legitimate business from the use permitted by the Ordinance. Judge Shenkin noted that the Township restrictions on gasoline sales were not limited to convenience stores but effectively prohibited any retail store of any size, including supermarkets and wholesale club stores, from selling motor vehicle fuels.

In his order, Judge Shenkin ruled that Verrichia was “entitled to site-specific relief” permitting it to develop its proposed convenience store at the intersection of Swamp Road and Ferry Road in Fountainville, just west of Doylestown with fueling stations in accordance with the plans that were submitted to the Township’s Zoning Hearing Board.

Commenting on Judge Shenkin’s ruling, Ms. Von Spreckelsen noted that “the decision marks one of the first instances of Pennsylvania courts recognizing that motor vehicle fuels are a product now widely sold by retail stores of all sizes and that the sale of fuel in conjunction with a retail store is a legitimate and distinct use that cannot be completely excluded from a municipality.”

Mr. VanLuvanee handles zoning, subdivision and land development matters, as well as real estate transactional matters, for both developers and property owners. His clients include national builders and developers, as well as many regional and local builders and developers.

Ms. Von Spreckelsen has been representing commercial and residential real estate developers, businesses, individuals, and distinguished institutional clients in real estate law, including zoning, subdivision, land development and municipal-related matters for more than 15 years. She frequently represents clients in front of municipal bodies and state courts throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Mr. Sivertsen practices land use and zoning, real estate, litigation, construction, and municipal law at Eastburn and Gray. He has appeared on behalf of clients before zoning hearing boards, municipal governing bodies, courts of common pleas, and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in land development matters, applications for zoning variances, and zoning appeals.

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