What is a “substantive validity challenge?”
Under Pennsylvania law, the question of where certain uses are permitted to occur is fundamentally a local issue. By delegation of the police power through the Municipalities Planning Code, 53 P.S. §§10101 et seq., local governments are vested with the power to adopt zoning ordinances and zoning maps outlining what uses are allowed in what areas within their boundaries. Zoning ordinances are presumed to be valid, and the decision as to where specific uses are permitted is largely within the discretion of the local governing body.
A party challenging the substance of a zoning ordinance bears a heavy burden of proving the provisions are “arbitrary, and unreasonable, and have no substantial relationship to promoting its public health, safety, and welfare.” When reviewing these types of challenges, courts are required to balance the public interest to be served with the conﬁscatory or exclusionary impact of the ordinance on individual property rights. Although property owners frequently challenge the substantive validity of ordinances they feel are too conﬁscatory, objectors have also challenged ordinances for being too permissive of a certain use―alleging that they fail to have the required connection to public health, safety or welfare.
Act 13, Robinson II and challenges under the ERA
In 2012, the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted Act 13, a comprehensive update to the former Oil and Gas Act. Shortly thereafter, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was tasked with considering the impact of the Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, known as the Environmental Rights Amendment (ERA) on Act 13, …