Municipalities in Pennsylvania, including Doylestown Township, follow the regulations in the Municipalities Planning Code (known as the MPC) which is “Act of 1968, P.L. 805, No. 247 as reenacted and amended”. If the Municipality enacts local Zoning the procedures outlined in the MPC are to be followed including the establishment of a Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB). The MPC and regulations concerning the ZHB can be seen in its entirety on the PA Department of Community and Economic Development website.
Township Zoning Map
What is the Zoning Hearing Board?
The primary purpose of the ZHB is to help assure fair and equitable application and administration of the Zoning Ordinances by hearing appeals on the Zoning Officer’s determinations and by granting relief from the literal enforcement of the ordinance in certain hardship situations.It is important to understand that the ZHB has no legislative power; it does not make nor modify the Township Zoning Ordinances, neither does the Board have any enforcement powers. The Board is a “quasi-judicial body” that schedules hearings on applications and appeals that come before it, takes evidence, and issues written decisions with findings of fact and conclusions of law. For example, the Zoning Ordinance may say a house is to be no closer than 20 feet to the side property line but an application is made to the ZHB to build an addition 15 feet from the property line. If after a public hearing the request is granted, the ZHB has not changed the zoning regulation, just granted a variance from the regulation for that property. Note also that the ZHB decision runs with the property, so should a new owner take control of the property the zoning variance is still valid and does not disappear with change of ownership.
It is also important to understand that as the ZHB is a body that hears appeals to the Zoning Ordinances enacted by the residents elected representatives, the Supervisors; it is in effect one legal step above the Township. The ZHB is to remain unbiased, so Township staff do not discuss with the ZHB members the merits of forthcoming hearings, but only receive the application, check it for completeness and forward it to the ZHB members and the ZHB attorney. The only time the Township becomes involved in a ZHB meeting is if the Supervisors wish to become a party to the proceedings at the meeting, either to oppose or support the application, where they will be represented by the Township Solicitor. In most cases the Supervisors leave it to the ZHB to make a determination on the merits of the application. In fact there is no requirement for a member of the Township staff to attend a ZHB hearing unless the Township is a party to the proceedings, but a staff member usually attends as a courtesy to the ZHB.
Who are the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) members?
The ZHB consists of three members who are required to be residents of the municipality. Doylestown Township board is appointed by resolution of the governing body, the Supervisors and their term lasts for three years. Board members are residents of Doylestown Township who hold no other office in the municipality. The ZHB is advised by an attorney who attends the meetings and advises on points of law but does not take part in the decision making.
The ZHB is subject to the open meeting provisions of the PA Sunshine Law (Act 1986-84) which requires public meetings, public votes and written minutes. Please see ZHB agendas and decisions under the link on the Code and Zoning web page.
Please contact the Code Enforcement Office for guidance and Zoning Hearing Board Application Forms. The Zoning Hearing Board meets at 7pm on the 3rd Monday and 4th Thursday of the month as needed, or at other times by special advertisement. Please look at the Township calendar for actual meeting dates.