Meeting deadlines is something we all strive for. Whether you’re handing in a project at work, or meeting someone for coffee, making yourself aware of the time is something we do every day. And failure to meet such deadlines creates the potential for undesirable consequences. The same is true for municipalities and developers, as failure by either party to familiarize themselves with the time-restraints imposed by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (the “MPC”) for zoning hearings can create major headaches. This post is the second post of a four-part series (Post 1Post 3, Post 4 to come) and follows our review, in Post 1, of the notice requirements that a board must follow prior to a zoning hearing.  This post explores two important deadlines to which a board must adhere.

Under Section 908(1.2) of the MPC, the initial hearing before a board must commence within 60 days from the date the board receives the application, unless the applicant agrees in writing to an extension of time. If the board fails to meet this requirement, one of two things can happen. Continue Reading Tick Tock – You’re On the Clock: Navigating Time-Restraints for Zoning Hearings

In today’s Legal Intelligencer, Scott Gould and Steve Mazura discuss the most recent round of permits for small municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) in Pennsylvania, related potential impacts on development, and creative approaches to stormwater management.  The full article is available at the link provided above and excerpts are below.  The article is definitely worth a read for all developers, municipal officials and staff, and land use professionals.

“The most recent round of permits for small municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) in Pennsylvania requires municipalities with MS4s to regulate stormwater in a manner that will impact development. MS4 municipalities with stormwater systems that discharge into ‘impaired’ waters must develop and implement pollution reduction plans (PRPs) to demonstrate measurable reductions in pollutant discharges, including those impaired waters with total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), or ‘pollution budgets,’ established for them. For the first time, the permit scheme Continue Reading New MS4 Requirements and Creative Development

This is the second post in a two-post series on the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”), with which developers and water companies see the return of a tax policy with negative consequences for development.  Effective this year, advances for construction (“Advances”) and Contributions in Aid of Construction (“CIAC”) for water systems are treated as taxable income.  Essentially, water companies must include in taxable income the contributed property or cash needed to connect a development to a water system.  This tax adds significant costs to developers when water companies pass the tax to developers.  At the same time, more work is created for water companies which must gross up Advances and CIAC (together, “A/CIAC”) and later recalculate those costs based on the actual cost of construction and gross up refunds.  This post provides insight on ways to mitigate the negative effects of the TCJA on development in Pennsylvania. Continue Reading UPDATE! Developers Beware! Water lines may cost more thanks to the Tax Cut and Jobs Act – Part 2

There is no doubt the best development occurs when developers and development professionals are able to work with municipal leaders and staff on a project.  So, it is for the benefit of all when developers and development professionals find ways to engage and help educate municipal leaders and staff in the area of land use.

Many professionals involved in commercial real estate and land development (development professionals) attend and teach educational seminars offered by private developer-focused organizations such as Urban Land Institute (ULI), NAIOP, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and state bar associations.  We attend or teach those training and educational seminars for personal and professional reasons, including to: (i) gain additional skills or deepen our knowledge base; (ii) keep up with the latest and emerging trends; (iii) give back to and improve the profession; (iv) network and market; and, of course (v) fulfill our continuing educational credit obligations.

For similar reasons, municipal officials and staff, who review and act on land development plans, zoning amendments, challenges and other forms of relief, attend and participate in the same or similar training and educational seminars.  Continue Reading Education and Training – More than Just CEUs/CLEs

With the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”), developers and water and wastewater companies see the return of a tax policy that has significant consequences for both groups.  This is the first post in a two-post series discussing the history of “Advances” and “CIAC” and the practical effect of the TCJA on construction, dedication and utilization of water lines in Pennsylvania.  In short, the cost of doing business just increased for developers, while water companies once again are saddled with additional work.  This post provides background and history while a second post will provide insight on working through the issues. Continue Reading Developers Beware! Water Lines May Cost More Due To The Tax Cut And Jobs Act – Part 1

This Blog previously discussed the headaches created for municipalities and their residents when zoning ordinances are not updated to account for short-term rentals, such as AirBNB and VRBO. But what do municipalities need to do to update their zoning ordinances? What thought processes should be followed? And what other new uses are primed to create – or are already creating – interpretational issues like those created by short-term rentals? This post, and others that will follow, answers those questions. After reading this post, I encourage you to go back and read our prior posts on two short-term rental cases that are case studies for what happens when zoning ordinances are not updated to account for new uses. In addition, please continue to check back over the following months as I introduce our readers to new uses that may not be adequately considered by municipal zoning ordinances. Continue Reading Updating Antiquated Zoning Ordinances: Educate. Evaluate. Amend.

This post, which is the second in a two-part series exploring the scope of Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment (the “ERA”), will delve deeper into the text of the ERA as analyzed and explained by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Fund (“PEDF”) v. Commonwealth, 161 A.3d 911 (Pa. 2017).

In PEDF, the Court ruled that the ERA grants citizens of the Commonwealth two distinct rights: 1) the right to clean air and pure water, and to the preservation of natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment; and 2) the right of common ownership by the people, including future generations, of Pennsylvania’s public natural resources. The Court noted that the first right, which comes directly from the text of the ERA itself, “places a limitation on the state’s power to act contrary to [the] right, and while the subject of the right may be amenable to regulation, any laws that unreasonably impair the right are unconstitutional.” Despite this declaration by the Court, the scope and meaning of the first right remains undefined. It remains to be seen how the courts will define “clean air” or “pure water” and even more intangibly, who will determine which “scenic” or “esthetic” values are worthy of preservation? Continue Reading The PA Supreme Court’s Revival of the Environmental Rights Amendment – Part 2

Although the Environmental Rights Amendment (the “ERA”) to the Pennsylvania Constitution was ratified in 1971, for many years it was rarely a topic of discussion among land use practitioners. Recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court jurisprudence, however, has revived this long-dormant amendment, and is reason to reconsider the ERA’s potential impact on development projects. This two-part post will explore the history of the ERA, the current legal standard for evaluating ERA violations as articulated by the Supreme Court, and potential future implications of the Court’s decision.

The ERA, found in Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, provides as follows:

The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.  Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come.  As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of the people. Continue Reading The PA Supreme Court’s Revival of the Environmental Rights Amendment – Part 1

A large-scale natural gas liquids pipeline project traversing the Commonwealth has shed light on an oft misunderstood legal principle regarding the municipal regulation of utilities. Municipalities typically operate under the assumption that essentially all land uses, including public utilities, are subject to municipal regulation to at least some degree (e.g., zoning ordinances, subdivision and land development ordinance, etc.). But, most public utility facilities actually are not subject to local regulation. A pair of recent Commonwealth Court cases reinforce this legal principle that is nearly sixty-five years old but rarely reflected in municipal ordinances. Continue Reading What do you mean that pipeline isn’t subject to zoning regulations?