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Gorsline v. Board of Supervisors of Fairfield Township

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20089
Nos. 67 MAP 2016, (Pa., 06/01/2018)

Pennsylvania's highest court reversed a lower court decision that would have allowed a company to drill, construct, develop, and operate unconventional natural gas wells as a conditional use in a district zoned for residential and agricultural uses. The lower court held that the proposed gas well was "similar to" other uses permitted in the zoning district because it has the same general character as a public service facility. But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court disagreed. According to the local ordinance, a "public service facility" involves "public service structures by a utility . . . or by a municipality or other governmental agency." Likewise, "essential services" are the facilities and related equipment of a "public utility." Here, the company that sought the conditional use is not a municipality or a government agency, but rather is a private, for-profit commercial business. Nor is it a public utility. As such, the proposed gas wells are not, in any material respect, of the "same general character" as any allowed use in the zoning district, including the "public service facility" and "essential services" uses referenced by the lower court.