municipal ordinances - adoption - void ab initio doctrine
Hawk v. Eldred Twp. Board of Supervisors - Cmwlth. Court - October 6, 2009
Township zoning ordinance held to be not void ab initio, despite some defects in adoption under the Municipal Planning Code, 53 P.S. §§10101-11202, because, inter alia, the appellant did not challenge the ordinance until 4 years after its adoption. Moreover, "the public was repeatedly informed of every meeting concerning the creation and enactment of the Ordinance in a newspaper of general circulation, a reasonable forum for providing such notice which is tantamount to the notice that it would have received if the statutory requirements would have been followed. [The appellant] had every opportunity for years to attend a meeting and for months to view the Ordinance and could have challenged it from its inception. But he did not. Because he waited for four years and had not been deprived of any constitutional right, he is time barred from challenging the validity of the Ordinance."
The doctrine of void ab initio is a legal theory stating that a statute held unconstitutional is void in its entirety and is treated as if it had never existed. For a thorough discussion of the history of the void ab initio doctrine, see Glen-Gery Corporation v. Zoning Hearing Board of Dover Township, 589 Pa. 135, 143-45, 907 A.2d 1033, 1037-38 (2006). See also Geryville Materials, Inc. v. Lower Milford Township Zoning Hearing Board, 972 A.2d 136, 142-43 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2009), where the court counseled against "an overly aggressive application of the doctrine could result in excessive uncertainty...."