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University takes zoning fight to high court

Anyone who wants to make any sort of land use changes knows that the zoning process can be burdensome. And although new athletic fields at a Philadelphia-area university have seen action this spring, the dispute over the campus improvements lingers on.

The university has appealed to the state Supreme Court the decision by the zoning board in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, that the site requires additional zoning rulings for special uses.

The baseball, softball and hockey fields all now are in use on the 38-acre site. The fields sit directly across from the campus of St. Joseph's University.

In its complaint to the Supreme Court, the university contends that the opening took three years longer than it should have and that the court should better regulate what campus officials see as a burdensome approval process.

In 2006, the university applied to the zoning board to reconstruct the playing fields at a former day school site for university use. The university needed approval because the number of cars coming to the site would increase and parking needs would change.

Two years later, after area residents witnessed the scope of the construction, they complained that the changes differed from what the university said would occur.

The zoning board requested more hearings and approvals, which finally were granted more than a year later. The zoning board also mandated that the university return to the board for other approvals, such as to conduct sports camps on the site.

The university went through the zoning process but also filed suit. The county court ultimately agreed with the zoning board, and on appeal, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court upheld that decision.

The university wants the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review the case because it believes the court must rule on what it sees as unfair and unending burdens for zoning approvals. The court has not yet decided whether to take the case.

Source: Mainline Media News, "St. Joe's picks up ball-field appeal fight," Cheryl Allison, May 2, 2012

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