The West Penn Township zoning hearing board denied a request for variance from the Dekorte family to maintain and store equipment related to their excavating company, Dekorte Excavating, on their 59 acre property in the township. Tony Prudenti, the chairman of the zoning hearing board, explained that last night's meeting was only to render a decision and that no testimony would be taken.
Prudenti also explained that at the previous meeting in June, the board had requested findings of fact from both sides, the Dekortes and the township. "We received one from the township. We did not receive one from the applicant," he said. "This case has been going on for a long time. We've been going back and forth for a long time. I don't understand why your attorney didn't submit what we asked him to. I'm puzzled by that," he added.
Prudenti then asked the Dekortes if they wanted to proceed with the hearing or if they wished to withdraw their request. Attorney Holly Heintzelman, the board's attorney, said that she had had email communications from the Dekortes' attorney, Keith Hoppes and said that he indicated to her that he was not going to be submitting any kind of finding of fact. "He didn't want to put his client through that expense," she said. Heintzelman added that withdrawing the request at this point could lead to other problems for the Dekortes, including fines from the magistrate's office. "I think your job is to go and make a decision," she advised the board.
Vice chairman Larry Dubetsky made the motion to deny the variance and Charles Schroding seconded the motion. Heintzelman proceeded to outline several different requirements for the requested variance that the board agreed were not met by the Dekortes. "One criteria is that there are unique physical circumstances which prevent it from being developed in accordance with the zoning ordinances," she said. Board members agreed that there were no physical characteristics that would prevent the property from continuing under its current usage as a residence and fields. "The variance requires them to show a hardship, not necessarily an economic one," explained Heintzelman. The board agreed that the property as it currently is maintained value. The board also agreed that it could not be proved that the propsed actions would not alter the "essential character of the neighborhood," which is primarily agricultural now. "That is the problem I have with the whole application," said Dubetsky. "How do you maintain the independence of the commercial business from the agricultural property?"
The board adjourned for a brief executive session to review the findings of fact and when they returned to the meeting, the request for variance was unanimously denied. Members of the Dekorte family, including Maurice, Barbara, and Allen, were in attendance at the meeting.