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Zoning Hearing Board

The Zoning Hearing Board is a quasi-judicial body that hears and renders decisions regarding specific types of land use actions, as established by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC).  The primary purpose of the Zoning Hearing Board is to ensure the fair and equitable application of the Zoning Ordinance.

The Zoning Hearing board hears appeals from the zoning administrator’s determinations, and grants relief from the literal enforcement of the zoning ordinance in certain hardship situations by means of a variance.  The zoning hearing board also hears applications for special use and challenges to the substantive validity of ordinances. 

It is important that the zoning hearing board members have a thorough knowledge not only of its specific functions, but also of its place within the arena of local planning decisions. While the zoning hearing board is not responsible for the contents of the zoning ordinance, it nevertheless plays a vital role in the overall effectiveness of the zoning ordinance.

The Myerstown Borough Zoning Hearing Board meets when the Borough receives an application for variance, an application for special exception, or an appeal from a determination of the zoning administrator.  If a meeting is necessary, the Zoning Hearing Board holds its hearings on the third Monday of the month in the Council Room at the Myerstown Community Center. 

Governing Document
The Zoning Hearing Board is governed by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC)(Act of 1968, P.L.805, No.247), which was enacted in 1968 as enabling legislation to empower counties and municipalities, individually or jointly, to plan their development and to govern the same by zoning, subdivision and land development ordinances and additional tools.

Creation
Any municipality enacting a zoning ordinance must also create a Zoning Hearing Board as required by Section 901 of the MPC.  Myerstown Borough's Zoning Hearing Board was created when its zoning ordinance was established by Ordinance 479 on November 10, 1968.

Membership
In accordance with the MPC, the Zoning Hearing Board consists of either three or five members appointed by resolution of the governing body.  The term of office for a three-member board is three years, and the term for a five-member board is five years.  Myerstown Borough's Zoning Hearing Board consists of three members, servince three year staggered terms.  Under Section 903(a) of the MPC, a member of the zoning hearing board may not hold an elective office or be appointed to the planning commission.  Members of the Zoning Hearing Board may receive compensation for the performance of their duties.  Currently, Myerstown Borough Zoning Hearing Board members do not receive compensation.

Section 903(b) of the MPC authorizes the appointment and participation of alternate members when the zoning hearing board is unable to obtain a quorum due to absence or disqualification of a member.  The MPC authorizes the governing body to appoint by resolution a pool of one to three residents to serve as alternate members. The term of an alternate is three years.

Functions of the Zoning Hearing Board
Section 909.1 of the MPC authorizes the Zoning Hearing Board with exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide the following:

  1. Substantive challenges to the validity of any land use ordinance, except curative amendments (which are heard by the governing body).
  2. Appeals from the determination of the zoning officer, including, but not limited to the following:
      i.    The granting or denial of any permit.
      ii.   The failure to act on an application for any permit.
      iii.  The issuance of any cease and desist order.
      iv.  The registration or refusal to register any nonconforming use, structure, or lot.
  3. Appeals from a determination by the municipal engineer or zoning officer with respect to the administration of any floodplain or flood hazard ordinance or such provisions within a land use ordinance.
  4. Applications for variances from the terms of the zoning ordinance and flood hazard ordinance or such provisions within a land use ordinance.
  5.  Applications for special exceptions under the zoning ordinance or floodplain or flood hazard ordinance or such provisions within a land use ordinance. 
  6. Appeals from the determination of any officer or agency charged with the administration of any transfers of development rights or performance density provisions of the zoning ordinance.
  7. Appeals from the zoning officer’s determination for a preliminary opinion under Section 916.2 of the MPC [relating to obtaining a preliminary opinion of the zoning officer].
  8. Appeals from erosion or stormwater provisions under a zoning ordinance dealing with building on a single lot.

LEARN MORE 
To learn more about the role of a Zoning Hearing Board member, check out the publication The Zoning Hearing Board, published by the Pennsylvania Governor's Center for Local Government Services.  You can download a copy by clicking the link below.

THE ZONING HEARING BOARD (pdf)