A Portion of the Omnibus Bill Amending the Pennsylvania Fiscal Code: Article XVI-I
Article by: Jeffrey L. Rehmeyer II
On July 6, 2010, General Assembly Act 46 of 2010 was signed into law. Act 46 was an Omnibus Bill amending the Pennsylvania Fiscal Code. A portion of the Act is Article XVI-I: The Permit Extension Act. The Act tolls “(t)he expiration date of an approval by government agency that is granted for or in effect during the extension…” The extension began December 31, 2008 and ends July 2, 2016. When the Act was adopted, it was recognized to apply to local approvals of Townships and Boroughs, such as building permits, land development approvals, and similar decisions. The intent behind the Act was to provide relief for developers who could not proceed with their projects because of the challenging economic times. Many developers continue to need the extension period under the Act even today.
Recently, the York County Court of Common Pleas was presented with a controversy, which was a case of first impression. Specifically, the plaintiff, Logan Green Community Association, Inc., sought a decision against the developer of the community, Church Reserve, LLC. When Church Reserve, LLC recorded the Declaration of Logan Greens, creating the Community, it noted that one of the lots, numbered 54, could be withdrawn. Under the Pennsylvania Condominium Act, there is a seven year window within which land may be withdrawn. Seven years passed. Since Church Reserve, LLC had not withdrawn the land, the Association sought a judicial determination that it could no longer do so.
When arguing to the Court, the Association argued that seven years had passed and the right to withdraw the real estate had simply extinguished. Conversely, Church Reserve, LLC argued that the Act should be read so as to allow additional time beyond the seven years.
After receiving argument, the Court examined the legislative intent and interpreted the law. The Court felt that simply considering the plain meaning of the Act with regard to the phrase “approval by a government agency” was a “superficial and incomplete view” of the law. Rather, the definition of the triggering term “approval” should include those governmental approvals “relating to or affecting development granted pursuant to a statute, ordinance or regulation adopted by a municipality.”
The Court also noted that Act 46 did contain multiple and explicit references to the Planned Communities Act, to which this development was subject. In order to convert or withdraw Lot 54, Church Reserve, LLC must comply with the Planned Communities Act. The Court found that authorization pursuant to the Planned Communities Act that relates to or affects development (in this case the right to convert or withdraw land) and is thus governmental approval for purposes of the Act. Therefore, the seven year deadline imposed by the Declaration was extended by the Act and more time was allowed for the defendant, Church Reserve, LLC.
This case provides a warning to those involved with land development, whether on the municipal or development side. Specifically, careful consideration should be given to the time periods involved and whether the Act or other laws has an affect on them. If you have any questions with regard to the Act or other land development issues, please contact a member of the CGA Law Firm Municipal Practice Group.