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Appeal pending on social hall zoning issue

A Pennsylvania state appeals court is pending concerning the application of zoning laws to a project planned in the Borough of Hummelstown. The Hummelstown Swim Club, which already operates a swimming pool at a facility it has on Kokomo Avenue, proposed building a social hall for its patrons that would be situated right next door for convenience.

Several years ago, the borough's zoning board approved the project to move forward, but imposed 13 preconditions to its opening. These included a ban on alcoholic beverages on the premises, a promise not to prepare food on site or build a dining room, and an occupancy limit of no more than 165 people present in the hall at any one time. Use of the hall was also to be strictly limited to bona fide members of the existing swim club and it was not to be open for use by the general public.

One subsequent court decision, however, ruled that the imposition of these conditions was improper, acting on a lawsuit brought by the club. The land where the facility is contemplated is currently zoned residential so the social hall could only be approved as a special use if the social hall could qualify by being classified as a lodge or fraternal organization. The borough has argued, however, that it does not so qualify, as it is merely an add-on to the existing swimming facility rather than a separate endeavor.

The owners of the swim club argue, and the court below agreed, that the social hall was a separate use. At issue in the pending appeal is whether to uphold that ruling, and whether the striking of the 13 conditions on the zoning special use approval was proper. The case illustrates that approval of something as simple as construction of a social hall for swimming club members often include complicated issues of zoning laws, requiring a detailed zoning attorney to successfully navigate the path to approval of a project.

www.pennlive.com, "State court hears Hummelstown appeal against borough's zoning ruling" Nick Malawskey, Jun. 20, 2013

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