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
Continue Reading Shooting Ranges Are Protected Under the Second Amendment

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?

As mentioned before on this blog, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (“PennDOT”) has a plan in place to improve Harrisburg’s Beltway.  The I-83 Master Plan is the agency’s effort to address worsening road conditions, high traffic volumes, and safety along the I-83 corridor through Harrisburg.  More details about the plan can be found here:  I83 Capital Beltway- Home (i-83beltway.com).

The project, like many other initiatives, has been delayed by the pandemic, but PennDOT is now moving forward with its plans to complete Section II and Section III of the Master Plan.   The agency has begun its efforts to acquire the land it needs to expand the highway.  PennDOT needs to
Continue Reading PennDOT’s Capital Beltway Project Is Moving Forward

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
Continue Reading Supreme Court: Yinz Can Keep Your Sign

Monetization is the process of converting assets into economic value. Looking for more options to generate revenue, municipalities have begun using solar projects to help monetize formerly “passive” or unused public assets, such as vacant land, rooftops, parking lots and storm basins. There is a tremendous upside for such development, and in recent years potential liabilities have shifted from municipalities to the solar companies.

Today’s common model for a municipal solar development is similar to a public-private partnership. The municipality provides the land or space for the project, and the solar company
Continue Reading Monetizing “Passive” Public Assets with Solar Projects

Hopefully, the title alone has George Harrison’s acoustic intro playing in your head.  If not, maybe this will help.

Here comes the sun (doo-doo-doo)
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right

The Beatles’ classic was not foretelling of the arrival of solar energy development projects in Pennsylvania, but it could serve as an anthem now.

Last month, Rachel McDevitt of StateImpact Pennsylvania published an article about the emerging solar energy development “boom” in Pennsylvania.  The article is a wonderful deep dive into the recent growth of solar projects.  It outlines the usual questions and concerns surrounding those projects.

McDevitt notes that
Continue Reading Here Comes the Sun . . . Solar Development in Pennsylvania

Thank you for following our Land Use Blog throughout 2020.  Without spending too much time on the past, please enjoy our Top 5 posts of 2020!

TOP 5 POSTS OF 2020

  1. Jon Andrews, Looking Through the Kaleidoscope – Land Use in Pennsylvania
  2. Claudia Shank, Simplified Zoning: Paradox or New Paradigm?
  3. Peter Wertz, Water Flows Downhill

Tomorrow is Halloween.  In honor of the holiday, I’d like to spend some time reflecting on a use that is ubiquitous this time of year: the cemetery. We don’t often talk about them in a planning context, but cemeteries are an important part of our built environment.  Unlike most other land uses, they are generally permanent in nature. However, despite the fact that cemeteries are present in nearly every community, they are often overlooked as a land use category in zoning ordinances. Similarly, they are rarely incorporated, or even referenced, in comprehensive plans.

Although admittedly dated, this 1950 article from the American Society of Planning Officials breaks the cemetery problem into two categories: maintenance and use of existing cemeteries, and planning for new ones.
Continue Reading Cemeteries: Planning Perspectives and Modern Trends

A kaleidoscope is an optical instrument that presents an ever-changing view for those looking through it.  In many ways, this reminds me of life as a real estate developer in Pennsylvania.  The approval process landscape is ever-changing from project to project and municipality to municipality.  With every twist of the land use kaleidoscope the path to a successful project looks a little (or a lot) different than the last one.

There are approximately 2,500 municipalities in Pennsylvania.  Between 2,100 and 2,200 have their own set of zoning regulations – each different than the other – that shape how land can be developed in that municipality.  Think of those zoning regulations as one color of glass inside the kaleidoscope.  But picture looking through that kaleidoscope you had as a child – there are multiple colors, right?
Continue Reading Looking Through the Kaleidoscope – Land Use in Pennsylvania

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
Continue Reading Are Distributed Antenna Networks Public Utilities? The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Has Decided