What Is the Role of a Zoning Officer of a Municipality ?

In Borough of Jenkintown v. Board of Commissioners of Abington Township, 858 A.2d 136 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004), this court discussed the zoning officer's role in making determinations in the context of subdivision and land development proposals under Article V of the MPC. Although noting various ambiguities in the MPC, including the fact that the MPC is silent as to the timing of challenges to the zoning aspect of a land development approval, this court adhered to our supreme court's determination that zoning issues should be resolved no later than the acceptance of the final plan by the governing body, here, the Board. Id. (citing Graham v. Zoning Hearing Board of Upper Allen Township, 520 Pa. 526, 555 A.2d 79 (1989)). Moreover, this court stressed the separation of authority between governing bodies and zoning hearing boards or zoning officers, stating, "while a governing body may interpret zoning ordinances in the land development review process, it has no authority to render final determinations resolving questions such as whether a use is permitted and whether relief from zoning ordinances is warranted." Borough of Jenkintown, 858 A.2d at 142. Furthermore, where a municipality has a zoning officer, he or she generally acts "in a gate-keeper-type capacity, sheltering zoning hearing boards from the duty to render preliminary decisions as to zoning compliance ... and the MPC provides for relief from such officers' determinations by its jurisdictional grant to zoning hearing boards." Id. at 140.