Zoning Hearing Board
The Zoning Ordinance can be found on the Codes & Ordinance Tab (on the left hand side of the main page).
Zoning Hearing Board
The Zoning Hearing Board is a quasi-judicial body comprised of three members, all of whom are appointed by Borough Council and must be residents of Trappe Borough. The Zoning Hearing Board conducts legally binding hearings and renders decisions on appeals, variances, and special exceptions to the Borough’s Zoning Ordinance. The Zoning Hearing Board meets on an as needed basis. Meetings are held at Trappe Borough Hall, 525 West Main Street, Trappe, PA 19426.
All building permit applications are reviewed by the Borough’s Zoning Officer. If the proposed project does not meet the requirements of the Borough Zoning Code, the Applicant will be referred to the Zoning Hearing Board to apply for a variance or special exception. The most common requests for variances are when a proposed addition exceeds allowable lot coverage or does not meet the setback requirements.
All Zoning Hearing Board Applications to the Trappe Borough Zoning Hearing Board shall be made in writing on the Zoning Hearing Board Application form provided by Trappe Borough and shall be in accordance with the Trappe Borough Zoning Ordinance §340-82 and the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Code (herein called the MPC). The completed application, with all required fees, required site plans, property labels and with other required information, shall be submitted to the Zoning Officer. The Applicant is responsible to see that a Borough Official stamps the date of receipt on the Zoning Hearing Board Application.
Under the provisions of the MPC §913.3 only a landowner or a tenant with written permission of the landowner shall file a Zoning Hearing Board Application with respect to a request for a variance and/or special exception. Other appeals may be filed with the Zoning Hearing Board under the MPC §913.3 by the landowner affected, the municipality or any person aggrieved.
- Application: Complete the Information Sheets (pages 2, 3 & 4), Application Narrative, Items 1, 2, 3 and 4 (pages 5, 6, 7 & 8), in their entirety. Please sign and date the application (page 8) and submit ten (10) complete copies to the Borough.
- Plan Submission Requirements: Submit to the Borough ten (10) copies of any plan, drawing, document, diagram, photograph and any other information to be presented to the Zoning Hearing Board.
- Mailing Labels: Mailing Labels: Submit to the Borough three (3) sets of mailing labels that include the following:
- All owner(s), current tenant(s) and/or occupants for all properties/lots located on both sides of the same street within 500 feet of the subject property/lot or building; and
- All owner(s), current tenant(s) and/or occupants for all properties/lots located NOT on the same street but within a 150 foot radius, which would include properties in front, catty cornered and behind on all sides of the subject property/lot or building.
- Proof of Ownership: If the Applicant is owner of the property in question, please attach a copy of the Deed to the property; if the Applicant is owner of equitable title, or tenant with permission of owner of legal title, please attach proof of equitable ownership or lease.
- Owner’s Authorization: When an APPLICANT is NOT the owner of record, an “Owner Authorization” form must be completed by the OWNER(s), and the form with the owner’s original signature must be submitted with the application. Faxed forms are not acceptable. See, Owner Authorization form.*Under the provisions of the MPC §913.3 only a landowner or a tenant with written permission of the landowner shall file a Zoning Hearing Board Application with respect to a request for a variance and/or special exception. Other appeals may be filed with the Zoning Hearing Board under the MPC §913.3 by the landowner affected, the municipality or any person aggrieved.
- Application Fees: The permit fee must be submitted with the application. See the Trappe Borough Fee Schedule for application fees. Please note that the Fee Schedule is updated annually. Accordingly, please make sure you are using the current year Fee Schedule. Checks should be made payable to the “Borough of Trappe”.
I. What is a Variance?
A variance is a means of solving the problems created by attempting to apply the general terms of the Zoning Ordinance to fit the land which is regulated. It is necessary because a zoning requirement may prevent any use of a property if strictly applied. A variance procedure prevents problems in applying general legislation to specific situations. All Zoning Ordinances contain many detailed pre-set regulations designed to be self-executing. Various setbacks and height limitations are examples of these provisions, which omit administrative discretion. Variances act as means of possible a relief from the Zoning Ordinance.
A request for a variance arises when an application for a zoning or building permit is rejected or “turned down” by the Zoning Officer because the proposed activity does not meet all the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance. The Applicant(s) would then make application to the Zoning Hearing Board for a variance as a result of this denial. The Zoning Hearing Board has the authority to vary the terms of the Zoning Ordinance in proper instances.
Any person aggrieved by any decision of the Zoning Hearing Board, or any taxpayer, or any officer of the Borough, may within 30 days after any decision of the Zoning Hearing Board is rendered, appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County.
II. Applying for a Variance
All building and zoning permit applications are reviewed by the Borough’s Zoning Officer. If the proposed project does not meet the requirements of the Borough Zoning Code, the Applicant(s) will be referred to the Zoning Hearing Board to apply for a variance. The most common requests for variances are when a proposed addition exceeds allowable lot coverage or does not meet the setback requirements.
III. Requirements for a Variance [MPC §910.2]:
- The Zoning Hearing Board hears requests for variances where it is alleged that the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance inflict unnecessary hardship upon the Applicant. The Zoning Hearing Board may by rule prescribe the form of application and may require preliminary application to the Zoning Officer. The Zoning Hearing Board may grant a variance provided the following findings are made where relevant in a given case:
- That there are unique physical circumstances or conditions, including irregularity, narrowness or, shallowness of lot size or shape, or exceptional topographical or other physical conditions peculiar to the particular property, and that the unnecessary hardship is due to such conditions, and not the circumstances or conditions generally created by the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance in the neighborhood or district in which the property is located;
- That because of such physical circumstances or conditions, there is no possibility that the property can be developed in strict conformity with the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance and that the authorization of a variance is therefore necessary to enable the reasonable use of the property;
- That such unnecessary hardship has not been created by the Applicant(s);
- That the variance, if authorized, will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood or district in which the property is located, nor substantially or permanently impair the appropriate use or development of adjacent property, nor be detrimental to the public welfare; and
- (5) That the variance, if authorized will represent the minimum variance that will afford relief and will represent the least modification possible of the regulation in issue.
- In granting any variance, the Zoning Hearing Board may attach such reasonable conditions and safeguards as it may deem necessary to implement the purposes of the Zoning Ordinance.
I. What is a Special Exception?
A special exception is a use permitted within a zoning district, but subject to certain specific conditions.
A special exception is a type of permission or approval granted an Applicant to use land in a district for a purpose other than that generally permitted outright in that district. The permission or special exception is granted by the Zoning Hearing Board in accordance with the standards contained in the Zoning Ordinance, provided that the specific application of the use would not prove injurious to the public interest.
It is important to realize that the term “special exception” is a misnomer. It is neither special nor is it an exception. It is not a deviation from the Zoning Ordinance. An Applicant for a special exception is following the Zoning Ordinance. The application is one envisioned by the ordinance, and, if the standards established by the ordinance are met, the use is one permitted by the ordinance.
II. Applying for a Special Exception [MPC §912.1]:
Where the governing body, in the Zoning Ordinance, has stated special exceptions to be granted or denied by the board pursuant to express standards and criteria, the Zoning Hearing Board shall hear and decide requests for such special exceptions in accordance with such standards and criteria. In granting a special exception, the Zoning Hearing Board may attach such reasonable conditions and safeguards, in addition to those expressed in the ordinance, as it may deem necessary to implement the purposes of this act and the Zoning Ordinance.
III. Regulations for a Special Exception [TBC §340-116]:
Where a permitted use is authorized pursuant to the jurisdiction of the Zoning Hearing Board of the Borough of Trappe, the Zoning Hearing Board is empowered to grant permission for “special exceptions,” consistent with the public interest, in specifically considering the standards in TBC §340-116 A – J, which standards must be met, where applicable, with the Applicant(s) having the burden of proof.
FEES [TBC §340-94]
All Applicants shall pay to Trappe Borough the required fee in accordance with the Fee Schedule which is approved and adopted by Resolution by the Trappe Borough Council. Please see the current year fee schedule for the fee amount. The Fee Schedule is updated annually. Please be sure to use the current year Fee Schedule. Checks should be made payable to the BOROUGH of TRAPPE.
HEARING PROCEDURE & POLICY [TBC §340-91]
The Zoning Hearing Board meets on demand at Borough Hall, 525 W. Main Street, Trappe, PA 19426. Notice of hearing shall be given in accordance with the Zoning Ordinance §340-91 and the PA Municipalities Planning Code §908.
A complete application requires that all fees are paid, site plans comply with all regulations with all appropriate submission procedures and relevant sections of the Zoning Hearing Board Application are fully completed. All materials must be received at the time of submission. If an application is not fully completed, the application will not be accepted.
Upon receipt of the completed Zoning Hearing Board Application the Zoning Hearing Board shall schedule a reasonable time and date for a public hearing and shall provide a minimum of a ten (10) day notice thereof as follows:
- Publish a Notice of the Public Hearing twice in a local newspaper of general circulation.
- Serve written notice to the Applicant(s) by U.S.P.S. regular first-class mail.
- Serve written notice to the Borough by U.S.P.S. regular first-class mail.
- Serve notice to all property owners within 500 feet on the same street as the subject property will be provided by the Borough; and, notice to all property owners within a 150 foot radius of the subject property, not on the same street, will be provided by the Borough using labels submitted by Applicant(s) along with the ZHB Application. All notices sent by the Borough to these property owners shall be by U.S.P.S. regular first-class mail.
In addition, notice of such hearing shall be conspicuously posted on the affected tract of land by Trappe Borough a minimum of seven (7) days before the hearing. The Applicant(s) is responsible for the maintenance of the notice. If the notice is removed or destroyed, the property owner must immediately obtain another notice and conspicuously post it. [MPC §908(1)].
Decision Rendered By ZHB [MPC 908(9)]
The Zoning Hearing Board is permitted forty-five (45) days to render a written decision following the last hearing. A signed copy of the written decision will be sent by certified mailed to the Applicant(s) no later than the day following its date of execution.
Please note: As required by the MPC, Building and Zoning Permits cannot be issued until the written Decision is received by the Applicant(s) and the Borough of Trappe.
Appeal Decision to Court [TBC §340-93]
Applicant(s) shall have a right of appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County within thirty (30) days after the entry of the decision, or, in case of a deemed decision, within 30 days after the date upon which notice of said deemed decision is given as set forth in Section 908(9) of the MPC.
Interpretation of the Zoning Officer’s Determination [MPC 614]
The Zoning Officer must administer the Zoning Ordinance by its literal terms: the Zoning Officer does not have any discretionary power and/or authority to waive, tighten nor create any requirement for any Trappe Borough Ordinance. Occasionally, the Zoning Officer in his or her capacity cannot make a literal determination of the particular zoning ordinance in which the Applicant requires a decision. The Zoning Officer is then required by the MPC to refer this determination to the Zoning Hearing Board for decision.
If you require property information such as tax parcel numbers, tax map, sales data, lot dimensions and size, sketch plan of a home, ownership records for properties within 500 feet or assessment records for properties in Trappe Borough, click on the link for Montgomery County Property Records at the top of this page.