On April 22, Governor Wolf announced an amendment to his standing shutdown and shelter in place order that permits construction projects to resume statewide on May 1st.  This news comes just days after the Governor’s office released its “Plan for Pennsylvania,” which authorized “limited construction” activities beginning on May 8th.  Per

Attending public meetings is a big part of any land use practitioner’s routine, and, if I’m being honest, one of my favorite parts of my job. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I traveled one, two, sometimes even three nights a week to meetings of zoning hearing boards, municipal governing bodies, and planning commissions. While I understand that a township board of supervisors meeting might not be everyone’s idea of a fun Thursday night, I like watching government at work. In today’s world, how many spaces exist where citizens can engage directly with their elected officials?

Of course, when COVID-19 cases began to appear in Pennsylvania, all of this changed. Businesses (including ours) started to adapt to social distancing requirements by replacing in-person meetings with audio and video conference calls. Municipalities, however, bound by the Sunshine Act and other open meeting requirements, faced a unique set of challenges. How could boards, councils and committees continue to conduct business and ensure public participation while protecting the health and safety of residents?
Continue Reading Public Meetings in Pajama Pants: Land Use in the Age of COVID-19

With protestors afoot outside the Capitol building in Harrisburg, Governor Wolf provided additional information on the Commonwealth’s plans to begin reopening businesses, including construction sites, within Pennsylvania.  Per the Governor, “limited construction” activities will be permitted to resume on May 8, to the extent such activities can occur in compliance with job site regulations the

Thank you to our friends at Capitol Buzz and the McNees Government Relations Group (MSSG) for a great update on bills working their way through the PA General Assembly, which affect public meetings and hearings, construction activities and more.  A few highlights are below, but you should read the entire Capitol Buzz post.

On Tuesday, along strict party lines, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a Republican-sponsored proposal to allow many businesses impacted by Gov. Tom Wolf’s business shutdown order to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The House passed Senate Bill 613, which includes language introduced by House Republicans last week to reopen the state’s workforce while practicing social distancing and other mitigation efforts outlined by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The legislation was sent
Continue Reading Updates On Public Meetings & Hearings, Construction Activities, and More from the General Assembly

Here is a headline most developers and builders would not want to see associated with their project: “’Life-sustaining’ casino? Construction continued in South Philly despite Gov. Wolf’s coronavirus shutdown. At least two workers have tested positive.”  Per the above Philadelphia Inquirer article, what has made matters worse for the developer are claims from many trades that the developer, a very large international development company, “wasn’t doing enough to protect them from being infected.”  Moreover, the developer’s “waiver” from the Governor’s Order, that essentially closed all non-life-sustaining businesses (more information available throughout this blog) to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus, is now at risk.

The story provides a great example of what not to do to if you want your business to avoid bad public relations, sick and upset employees and contractors, potential related lawsuits, and putting your waiver at risk.  Below are three short lessons pulled from the article:
Continue Reading A Story of Warning for Developers & Builders Operating in Pennsylvania

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“PADEP”) recently announced the availability of a process for requesting temporary suspensions of environmental permitting and regulatory compliance obligations.  Regulated entities experiencing difficulties due to COVID-19 in meeting the terms and conditions of their environmental permits or complying with environmental regulatory provisions should consider submitting a form request to PADEP for relief.  Completed forms must be submitted to RA-EPCOVID19SuspReq@pa.gov.  While PADEP’s offices remain closed, program staff continue to work remotely to process submitted requests.

Unless a temporary suspension is granted
Continue Reading PADEP Responds to COVID-19: How to Ask PADEP for a Temporary Suspension of Environmental Compliance Obligations

In her post, Public Meetings Amidst Social Distancing, on the McNees Public Sector Blog, Erica Wibble, provides a great update on guidance for municipalities trying to comply with the Sunshine Act during the COVID-19 pandemic and under Governor Wolf’s Order (which we have discussed in numerous other posts).  A few highlights are below, but please be sure to read her entire post for more details.

According to the Office of Open Records, any agency [not able to meet in person] must provide a reasonably accessible method for the public to participate and comment pursuant to Section 710.1 of the [Sunshine] Act. Further, the Office of Open Records strongly recommends that any agency holding such a meeting should record the meeting and proactively make the recording available (preferably online) so that a full and complete record of the meeting is available to the public.
Continue Reading Guidance on Conducting Municipal Meetings/Hearings During the COVID-19 Pandemic

**UPDATED 3/21/2020**

Governor Tom Wolf ordered all “non-life-sustaining” businesses throughout Pennsylvania to physically close their operations by 8 p.m. on March 19, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Enforcement begins at 8:00 a.m., Monday, March 23.  With the Order, the Commonwealth issued a list of life-sustaining and non-life-sustaining businesses.  Residential and commercial construction were on the list of businesses that must close, absent a waiver from the Order.  The Commonwealth’s list is intended to be consistent with the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response, also released March 19, 2020.  For developers and builders who may be in critical stages of construction or who have environmental responsibilities under permits (such as the PAG-02 or individual permit for discharges of stormwater associated with construction activities), an immediate shutdown simply cannot be achieved.  So what are you to do?
Continue Reading UPDATE – 3/21/2020: The Governor’s COVID-19 Order: Compliance with Environmental Permit Requirements

Overview of Force Majeure
With COVID-19 headlines dominating the news cycle, and with no end in sight to the uncertainty that the virus brings, affected businesses are wise to consider whether the current pandemic qualifies as a “force majeure.”  In the last few weeks, the Chinese government has issued “force majeure certificates” to domestic businesses as a way of shielding companies from breach of contract claims, American businesses are sending mass e-mails to customers explaining that the virus prevents the company’s performance or operations, and businesses in an array of industries have sent formal inquiries to their service providers seeking confirmation of continued performance.

What is “Force Majeure”
The defense of force majeure will excuse a party’s performance under a contract if
Continue Reading Force Majeure Provisions and the Impacts of COVID-19

Please see below regarding the Governor’s order from our Government Relations and Labor & Employment Groups.  Do not hesitate to contact anyone at McNees with questions, including how this order might apply to your job site, project approvals or your office.  McNees is a full service law firm that remains operational, remotely and in compliance with the Governor’s order.  We are ready and able to continue to support our clients’ needs during this trying time.

UPDATE: Latest on Gov. Wolf’s Closure Order amid COVID-19 Outbreak

 As detailed in a special edition of Capitol Buzz sent on Thursday evening, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all “non-life-sustaining” businesses throughout Pennsylvania to physically close their operations in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. The new directive, which went into effect at 8 p.m. on Thursday evening, contains the threat of enforcement action
Continue Reading Governor Wolf’s Closure Order