In an earlier blog post, we discussed how the Commonwealth Court found that a Stroud Township ordinance prohibiting the unauthorized discharge of firearms in the Township did not pass constitutional muster. The Township only permitted shooting ranges in two of the Township’s zoning districts and required a minimum lot size of five acres for
Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority to Oversee Disbursement of $100 Million in Federal Infrastructure Funds
Pennsylvania recently created the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (the “Authority”) to oversee broadband deployment to unserved and underserved areas in Pennsylvania and to authorize grant awards from the $100 million allocated to Pennsylvania by the Federal government. The federal infrastructure bill (the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act), signed into law by President Biden in November 2021, is the source of the federal funds. The Authority – located in the Department of Community and Economic Development – will serve as the single point of contact for entities desiring to deploy broadband in the Commonwealth.
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Small Wireless Facilities in the Public Rights-of-Way: New State Regulations Impact Municipalities
Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act (Act 50) which took effect on August 29, 2021. Act 50 addresses the deployment of small wireless facilities, including new utility poles to support the facilities, in the public rights-of-way. The term “small wireless facility” is defined in Act 50 (generally each antenna can’t be more than three cubic feet in volume) and such facilities are permitted by right anywhere in a municipality with the exception of areas where the municipality requires all cable and utility facilities to be located underground. However, the municipality must permit an applicant to seek a waiver from the underground requirement for the installation of a new utility pole to support a facility.
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Shooting Ranges Are Protected Under the Second Amendment
The Commonwealth Court recently found that a Stroud Township ordinance prohibiting the unauthorized discharge of firearms in the Township did not pass constitutional muster. The constitutionality of the ordinance was challenged by a Township resident who had submitted a permit application for a proposed shooting range on his property that was denied by the Township zoning officer. The resident’s property was located in the Township’s R-1 Low Density Residential Zoning District. The ordinance in question permitted the discharging of firearms at shooting ranges but only at locations where the use is permitted by the Township’s zoning ordinance. The zoning ordinance permits shooting ranges in two of the…
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Supreme Court: Yinz Can Keep Your Sign
Since the 1920s, a large sign has overlooked downtown Pittsburgh from nearby Mount Washington. Mount Washington is well known for its funiculars, the Monongahela Incline and the Duquesne Incline. Recently, it has also been known for the controversial sign which has been at the center of an ongoing dispute between the City of Pittsburgh and Lamar, the owner of the sign. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in Lamar Advantage GP Company, LLC v. City of Pittsburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment, et al., recently resolved the dispute in favor of Lamar.
The sign at issue is a large concrete structure. From the 1930s to 2016, the larger concrete sign structure supported a smaller electronic display. In 2014, Lamar proposed …
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Small Cell Facilities in the Public Rights-of-Way: The Ninth Circuit Weighs In
In two earlier blog posts from 2018, found here and here, we discussed the 2018 FCC Order, including the fee standards and “shot clocks” that were adopted by the FCC. Of particular interest to municipalities were the fee standards and the safe harbor fees that municipalities are permitted to charge for small cell facilities. To recap, the 2018 The FCC Order addressed three types of fees charged by municipalities: (1) fees for access to the public rights-of-way; (2) fees for the use of governmental property located in the public rights-of-way; and, (3) application review fees. The safe harbor fees under the 2018 FCC Order are…
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Are Distributed Antenna Networks Public Utilities? The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Has Decided
In an earlier blog post, we discussed how the Commonwealth Court reversed the decision by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) to no longer issue certificates of public convenience to neutral host distributed antenna system (“DAS”) network operators. Having a certificate of public convenience is important to a DAS network operator since it affords the operator access to public rights-of-way and limits the applicability of municipal regulation to DAS networks. The Commonwealth Court had determined that the PUC’s new interpretation of the statutory language was not entitled to much deference and was not supported by the statutory language, precedent or federal law. The PUC appealed and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently affirmed the Commonwealth Court’s decision.
The Court first held that the Commonwealth Court was …
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A Tie Goes to the Runner (or the Property Owner): Interpreting Ambiguity in Zoning Ordinances
In baseball, if the base runner and the ball arrive at first base at the same time the tie is resolved in favor of the base runner and they are safe. Under the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), if there is any ambiguity when interpreting a zoning ordinance provision, the ambiguity is interpreted in favor of the property owner and against the extension of any restriction in the ordinance provision. This rule was applied by the Commonwealth Court recently in the case of Alleman v. North Newton Township Board of Supervisors.
In the Alleman case, the property owner owned approximately 112 acres of split-zoned land in North Newton Township. Approximately forty acres of the property were in the Township’s Agricultural District and approximately seventy-two acres were in the Township’s Rural Residential District. The property owner had a hog feeding operation on a portion of the forty acres…
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Are Pot Bellied Pigs Pets Too?
In an earlier blog post we discussed a zoning case from Lebanon County, Pennsylvania that involved the keeping of ducks as emotional support animals on a residential property. In that case, the zoning hearing board determined that the ducks were permitted on the property as pets and that the keeping of ducks as pets was not an agricultural operation as alleged in the enforcement notice. Last month, a zoning hearing board in a York County, Pennsylvania municipality was asked to determine whether the keeping of pot-bellied pigs as emotional support animals on a residential property is permitted.
According to an article published in the York Daily Record, a family acquired two pot-bellied pigs as emotional support animals for their son. The family also has two dogs and three cats, and all the animals live in the house with the family.
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**UPDATE** Regulating Short-Term Rentals – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Weighs In
In blog posts last year (available HERE and HERE), we reviewed the challenges that municipalities face in regulating short-term rentals under existing zoning ordinances that do not specifically address the use. One case we discussed was Slice of Life, LLC v. Hamilton Township Zoning Hearing Board, 164 A.3d 633 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2017). The Commonwealth Court’s decision in Slice of Life was appealed and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently reversed the Commonwealth Court’s decision.
In Slice of Life, the Township issued an enforcement notice to the property owner alleging that the property was being used as a hotel or other type of transient lodging in violation of the zoning ordinance. According to the zoning ordinance, single-family residential was the only permitted use in the underlying zoning district. The Township’s zoning ordinance defined the term “family” as…
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