We are not ashamed to admit that we LOVED Top Gun: Maverick (no spoilers, we promise). It’s been almost 30 years since Maverick and Iceman squared off in Top Gun. “You like to work alone,” Iceman accused Maverick. Yet, ninety minutes later, focused on a common goal, Maverick and Iceman teamed up to save the world. “You can be my wingman anytime,” the result of Maverick and Iceman’s collaboration.

While elected officials may not be saving the world from Mig-29s (or 5th Generation Fighters), they play a vital role in creating the envisioned growth of their communities. In many communities, the goal is controlled and collaborative development. As land use attorneys, we are fortunate to be part of that collaboration and, therefore, want to offer our top five ways to encourage controlled and collaborative development. This is the first post in a five-part series. First up, early collaboration between the stakeholders.

Continue Reading “You Can Be My Wingman Anytime”: Top 5 Ways to Encourage Controlled and Collaborative Development (Part I of V)

In an effort to preserve agricultural and forest land, Pennsylvania passed The Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act of 1974, also known as Clean and Green. Clean and Green provides qualified parcels of land with preferential assessment values, resulting in lower property taxes for the landowner. A Clean and Green qualified parcel generally must be more than 10 acres in size and devoted to agricultural use, agricultural reserve (i.e. open spaces used for outdoor recreation), or forest reserve. Rather than appraising the parcel based off of its Fair Market Value, Clean and Green allows the Department of Agriculture (DOA) to value parcels based on their use. The DOA provides county assessment offices with a list of use values annually. Each county’s assessment office is allowed to provide for lower assessment values for Clean and Green qualified parcels, but may not assess a parcel higher than the use values provided by the DOA. Currently, Pennsylvania has more than 9.3 million of its total 29 million (~32%) acres of land enrolled in Clean and Green.

While Clean and Green assists many Pennsylvania farmers that may otherwise face financial struggles, the program also disincentivizes those landowners from changing the use of their land or selling it for non-agricultural purposes. In the event a landowner violates the Clean and Green covenants or elects to remove the parcel from the program, the landowner is subject to up to seven years of rollback taxes at a 6 % interest rate per year (or, if the parcel was enrolled in Clean and Green for less than seven years, rollback taxes for the number of years the parcel was enrolled). Rollback taxes generally means the amount of taxes that would have been paid had the parcel not been enrolled in Clean and Green, less the taxes due by virtue of the program. In the event the parcel is sold to a third party, rollback taxes will not become automatically due because of the sale itself. If, however, a third party purchases the parcel and changes its use, the parcel—thus, the third-party purchaser—can become subject to the rollback tax penalty.

Continue Reading Clean & Green & Sometimes…Mean?

In Pennsylvania, agriculture has provided approximately $83.8 billion in direct economic output, 280,500 jobs and $10.9 billion in earnings. Needless to say, agriculture is a major industry in the Commonwealth. The Agricultural, Communities, and Rural Environmental Act, commonly referred to as “ACRE,” is one of several statutes that protects agriculture at the state level. ACRE was enacted on July 6, 2005 to address municipal regulation of normal agricultural operations as written or as applied. There are two components to qualify as a normal agricultural operation: (1) it is an activity, practice, equipment, and/or procedure utilized in the production, harvesting, and preparation for market, and (2) the property is at least ten acres in size or produces at least $10,000 of annual gross income.

Under ACRE, “[a] local government unit shall not adopt nor enforce an unauthorized local ordinance.” An “unauthorized local ordinance” is one that either: (i) prohibits or limits a normal agricultural operation unless the local government unit has authority under state law to adopt the ordinance and it is not prohibited or preempted under state law, or (ii) restricts or limits the ownership structure of a normal agricultural operation.

Continue Reading Pennsylvania’s ACRE Law Protects Farmers from Unauthorized Municipal Regulation

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

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

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (the “Commission”) recently announced that it is looking for Pennsylvania landowners with stream frontages to enter into conservation easement agreements in exchange for a one-time payment. The Commission is seeking these easements in furtherance of the Voluntary Public Access-Habitat Incentive Program (the “VPA-HIP”), a competitive grant program of the U.S. Department of Agricultural Natural Resources Conservation Service designed to provide funding to state governments for the benefit of public hunting, fishing, and other wildlife-dependent recreation. Portions of Pennsylvania’s VPA-HIP allocated funds are administered by the Commission for the purpose of providing Pennsylvania’s anglers with enhanced public fishing opportunities. Qualifying landowners who enter into a VPA-HIP conservation easement with the Commission will be awarded a one-time payment in consideration for permitting members of the public to access and fish on their properties. The amount of compensation for providing these easements depends on several factors, including (i) the length of the stream frontage that is made available for public access, (ii) the location of the property, and (iii) the fishing quality of the stream.

Continue Reading The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission: Fishing for Landowners to Execute Conservation Easement Agreements

The quote above comes from my favorite attraction in Walt Disney World – the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover located in the Magic Kingdom.  Most readers will not know this, but my family and I are Disney World fanatics.  We regularly trek down to Florida to visit the Mouse.  It’s rare for my professional and personal interests to intersect so directly, but when I read this it was – dare I say – magic?

Continue Reading “Paging Mr. Morrow – Mr. Tom Morrow.” Is a Disney Community Coming to Your Municipality Soon?

Thank you for continuing to follow our Land Use Blog into 2022. Below are the top 5 most viewed posts of 2021. Enjoy!

TOP 5 POSTS OF 2021

  1. Kandice Hull – PennDOT’s Capital Beltway Project Is Moving Forward
  2. Jon Andrews – More Sunshine? What Do Changes to the Sunshine Act Mean to Developers?
  3. Jon Andrews

Latrobe. As a kid growing up in Western PA, it has always meant Steelers’ preseason football camp. In my 20s, “33” and Rolling Rock’s green pony bottles – “from the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe” – stole the limelight. Although the Steelers are still in Latrobe, Anheuser-Busch moved production of the classic pale ale in green bottles to New Jersey years ago. But it seems as if “green” might again be the second color of Latrobe.

Continue Reading Latrobe, PA: From Green Bottles to Green Charging Stations

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