Land ''Purchaser With Knowledge'' of a Hardship
In Marlowe v. Zoning Hearing Board of Haverford Township 52 Pa. Commw. 224, 415 A.2d 946 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1980), the Court addressed whether a variance could be denied because an applicant was aware of the land's features and zoning requirements when purchasing the property.
In holding that the variance could not be denied, the Court stated:
The mere fact that an applicant for a variance purchased the property with knowledge of the hardship does not alone preclude him from being granted the variance.
The mere fact that property changes hands after the adoption of zoning cannot be the basis for holding that no variance can thereafter be granted with respect to any matter of which the purchaser could be aware...
Because zoning considerations relate primarily to the circumstances of the property and not to the identity of the owners, it would seem that a subsequent purchaser can stand in the shoes of the original owner with respect to a variance, provided that the claimed hardship does not arise out of the purchase itself.
With respect to a landowner who purchases with knowledge of the property's condition and existing zoning restrictions, the hardship is deemed self-inflicted only where he has paid an unduly high price because he assumed the anticipated variance would justify the price, or where the size and shape of the parcel was affected by the transaction itself. Id. at 950-951.
More recently, in Manayunk Neighborhood Council v. Zoning Board of Adjustment, 815 A.2d 652 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2002), the Court refined our holding stating:
While older cases explain the "purchaser with knowledge" concept..., more recent cases recognize that where hardship arises from intensity of restriction, the right to relief runs with the land...Unless the hardship arises from the purchase itself, as where the purchase price was too dear, transfer of the property does not create the hardship...Thus, pre-purchase knowledge of zoning restrictions limiting development, without more, does not create a hardship. Id. at 657.