“Your parking requirements stink!  What do you mean we have to provide 25 times the number of parking spaces than what the ITE says, or we have to get a variance? What is our hardship other than your requirements haven’t been updated in over 50 years? If your parking requirements were a car, they would be considered antique!”

“Your project doesn’t have enough off-street parking! All those vehicles will park in my spot on the street in front of my house and block my three driveways! How will the plow truck get through? Where will the neighborhood kids play?”

Obviously, these outrageous statements are made up, but the underlying premises are true: parking is and continues to be a contentious issue in numerous communities (for example, see here and here). Continue Reading Waivers and Modifications for Parking Relief:  What Do You Mean We Don’t Need a Variance?

In recent months, several media outlets have reported on potential redevelopment concepts and initiatives for the Colonial Park Mall site in Lower Paxton Township and the Harrisburg Mall site in Swatara Township, both located in Dauphin County, PA.

As mentioned before in this blog, large, older enclosed shopping malls that include vast expanses of underutilized parking spaces have been declining for the past several decades.  In fact, several hundred of these shopping malls have permanently closed, while several hundred more continue to struggle to stay viable and relevant.  Some of the factors contributing to these declines and closures include: (i) inconvenient, inefficient, and outdated format and layout; (ii) costs of maintaining or retrofitting large, unique single-purpose buildings nearing or exceeding their functional life expectancies; (iii) rise of online retailing and e-commerce; (iv) social and economic impacts of COVID-19; (v) vacant tenant spaces; and (vi) lack of foot-traffic. Continue Reading Municipalities Help to Breathe New Life into Vacant or Underutilized Shopping Mall Sites

Commonwealth and local officials recently announced that a new farm will soon begin operating in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  A farming operation may not seem like front page news given Pennsylvania’s long and rich agricultural heritage, or the fact that Pennsylvania has been one of the nation’s leading agricultural production states, including tops in the number and acreage of permanently preserved farms. But what makes this particular farm newsworthy is its departure from well-known, century-old farming techniques: this farm is a technology-based, indoor vertical farming operation located within an industrial business park that is in close proximity to an interstate highway.Continue Reading Vertical Farming on the (Vertical) Horizon?

There is a common misconception among municipal officials and planners in Pennsylvania, something similar to the following:  “The State told us we have to update our comprehensive plan.”

While the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (“MPC”), the Commonwealth’s enabling legislation, certainly permits municipalities to plan and regulate land use and development, the MPC does not require municipalities to either:  (i) adopt local comprehensive plans or ordinances; or (ii) revise such plans or ordinances.

But when municipalities choose to prepare and adopt local land use or development plans or ordinances, the MPC sets forth certain procedures, timeframes and contents to which municipalities must adhere or incorporate.

While Section 301(c) of the MPC states “[t]he municipal … comprehensive plan shall be reviewed at least every ten years,” nowhere does the MPC require municipalities to revise local comprehensive plans. [Emphasis added].

Interestingly, while the MPC does not require municipalities to adopt or revise local comprehensive plans, counties on the other hand, are required by the MPC to not only prepare and adopt county comprehensive plans, but also revise such plans.Continue Reading Quit Bossin’ Us Around: Oh Wait, You’re Not.

Several polls indicate that housing affordability continues to be a major issue across the nation.

As discussed in past blog posts, the Federal and state and local governments continue pushing for changes in zoning regulations to ensure that more housing units are affordable to more people in more areas.

In support of that goal, several communities, including Pittsburgh, are pursuing an approach called inclusionary zoning to ensure that residential developments include a minimum amount of housing units that are affordable to low- or moderate-income residents. The idea behind inclusionary zoning is to create mixed-income developments and neighborhoods. Municipalities are seeking to achieve inclusionary zoning by implementing either voluntary or mandatory zoning regulations.Continue Reading Inclusionary Zoning: Carrots Taste Better and Aren’t as Painful as Sticks

Fans of the series “The Office” may remember the episode “Money” which shows Jim and Pam’s first visit to Schrute Farm, a working beet farm fictionally set in northern Pennsylvania.  Dwight describes how Schrute Farm is open to visitors as it offers certain on-farm activities and experiences, including beet wine making, manure spreading, tours of the fields and barns, Cousin Mose’s table making demonstration, overnight stays in one of the three themed rooms (i.e., America, Irrigation and Nighttime), and of course, use of the outhouse. Dwight goes on to explain that “Agritourism is a lot more than a bed and breakfast. It consists of tourists coming to a farm. Showing them around. Giving them a bed. Giving them breakfast.”
Continue Reading Schrute Farm and PA’s Agritourism Protection Act

Problem:  A clean, renewable energy (CRE) developer is proposing to construct a solar energy project on land within a rural agricultural area of our community. We have government goals and initiatives promoting the reduction of carbon footprints by accelerating the pace of replacing dependence on fossil fuels with CRE sources (e.g., solar, wind). At the same time, similar goals and initiatives suggest supporting farmers and preserving more farmland. We think that both are important. Do we create a win-lose scenario by supporting one and sacrificing the other?

Answer: You may not have to choose.
Continue Reading Agrivolatics: Two for One – Harvesting Crops and Solar

As mentioned before in this blog, an increasing number of state and local governments are revising plans and zoning regulations to help overcome the exclusionary effects of single-family only zoning.  The purpose of these initiatives is to provide additional housing opportunities that are affordable to more people in more areas.  Zoning revisions may include permitting multiple dwelling uses by right in zoning districts that normally are less dense.  Examples of uses include:  (i) garage apartments or accessory dwelling units on
Continue Reading Uncle Sam Giving You More Chances to Love More New Neighbors?

If I told you that, in Pennsylvania, municipal (including county) planning agencies, such as planning commissions or planning department staff, are permitted to act on subdivision or land development plans (“SLD Plans”) and related waivers or modifications, most of you would likely say that I’m wrong, crazy, or flat out lying!  Most of you would say that planning agencies are to review and make recommendations on SLD Plans, and that governing bodies (e.g., councils, supervisors or commissioners) take action to approve or deny SLD Plans and waivers or modifications.  Well, most of you would be right, but only partially.
Continue Reading You Can’t Do that in Pennsylvania! Or Can You?: Planning Commissions Approving Subdivision/Land Development Plans

By now, most people have become aware of the exclusionary effects of single-family only zoning.  Cities and states have started to flip the concept of single-family only zoning on its head.  Cities like Minneapolis and Seattle and states like Oregon, California and Minnesota have passed (or are considering) legislation essentially outlawing single-family only zoning.  In these states and cities, laws or ordinances now permit additional dwelling types, such as accessory dwellings (i.e., granny-flats), duplexes, triplexes or quadplexes in areas that were formerly zoned exclusively for single-family detached dwellings.  These ordinances and laws are intended to remove land use and housing regulations that have served as economic, social or racial barriers for certain classes or groups of residents, by increasing access to more diverse or affordable housing options in areas previously off-limits.  Surprisingly, these laws and ordinances have broad-based support from disparate groups ranging from developers, home builders and chambers of commerce to housing or social service providers and activists (see YIMBYs).

By way of background, beginning in the early 1900s, communities started zoning most of their land exclusively for single-family detached dwellings.
Continue Reading Here is Your Chance to Love More New Neighbors (or Even Create that Family Compound You Have Always Wanted)