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Land-Use Control

Dust, Noise, Smells, But Not A Nuisance

Homeowners have a legitimate right to the QUIET ENJOYMENT of their property. Nevertheless, when that quiet enjoyment is disturbed by the activities of another property owner, it may be difficult to have those activities declared a private or public NUISANCE.

In Karpiak v. Russo, 450 Pa. Super. 471, 676 A.2d 270 (1996), the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that a landscaping supply business that produced dust, loud noises, and unpleasant smells in an area that contained homes as well as businesses was not a private nuisance. The decision illustrates the need for those complaining of a nuisance to prove significant harm.

The landscaping supply company was established in 1984, when the ZONING law classified the location as business property. The area was rezoned in 1993, making the area residential. The company sold topsoil, shredded bark, compost, sand, and river rock from spring to late fall. Nearby homeowners complained of dust blowing into their yard and home; noise from trucks, backhoes, and payloaders; and smells from the compost.

The court rejected these claims of nuisance. It first noted that the company had lawfully complied with the zoning ordinance at the time it started the business. There were other businesses on the same street. Just because the neighborhood had been rezoned did not prohibit the continued existence of the landscape business.

More significantly, the court found that none of the complaining parties had suffered any significant harm. Most of the parties worked weekdays and were absent from the neighborhood when the landscape business was in operation. Aside from one person who had to clean his car and outside furniture, no one claimed any damages from the operation of the business. The court concluded that occasional personal discomfort or annoyance did not establish a serious level of harm that could be defined as a private nuisance. People who reside in neighborhoods with businesses close by will sometimes find their comfort subordinated to the commercial needs of business.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Labor Department - Employment And Training Administration to Legislative PowerLand-Use Control - Private Land-use Restrictions, The Master Plan And Official Map, Planned Communities: Read The Fine Print