With football season behind us, March arrives with bracket talk and the discussion of college basketball teams you have never heard of. Some of us spend hours researching or contacting that old college buddy to help fill our brackets, while others choose teams based on names or colors. No matter your strategy, March Madness and
Vertical Farming on the (Vertical) Horizon?
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?
Is Part of the Solution to the Housing Problem Already Built?
The affordability of housing in America is a well-documented growing issue. Some public officials have declared it a crisis. The recent spike in mortgage rates certainly will not improve the situation. Public officials and developers have been searching for policies and real world opportunities to provide more affordable housing, but there are no easy solutions. A recent article by Mike Bebernes on Yahoo! News looked at whether America’s growing vacant office space can be redeveloped to provide for more affordable housing options.
Continue Reading Is Part of the Solution to the Housing Problem Already Built?
“You Can Be My Wingman Anytime”: Top 5 Ways to Encourage Controlled and Collaborative Development (Part I of V)
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)
Clean & Green & Sometimes…Mean?
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.…
Pennsylvania’s ACRE Law Protects Farmers from Unauthorized Municipal Regulation
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
Are Shooting Ranges Protected Under the Second Amendment? The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Will Decide
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…
Inclusionary Zoning: Carrots Taste Better and Aren’t as Painful as Sticks
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: Fishing for Landowners to Execute Conservation Easement Agreements
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
“Paging Mr. Morrow – Mr. Tom Morrow.” Is a Disney Community Coming to Your Municipality Soon?
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?