Zoning Board's Authority to Interpret An Ordinance In the Absence of a Request for Specific Relief

In Hopkins v. North Hopewell Township Zoning Hearing Board, 154 Pa. Commw. 376, 623 A.2d 938 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1993), this Court addressed the authority of a zoning board to interpret an ordinance in the absence of a request for specific relief. In Hopkins, the landowners had submitted an application for a building permit and an application for subdivision approval. After the building permit was granted and while the subdivision application was pending, the landowners filed a "Request for Interpretation" with the zoning hearing board, presenting ten questions for the board to address. The zoning board issued its decision, but in doing so expressed misgivings about its ability to render such a decision because the "matter did not appear to fit" those matters over which it had jurisdiction. Id. at 939. the trial court held thatthe zoning hearing board lacked the authority under the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) to grant the relief the landowners requested, i.e., an interpretation of the zoning ordinance, and this Court affirmed.