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

If I told you that, in Pennsylvania, municipal (including county) planning agencies, such as planning commissions or planning department staff, are permitted to act on subdivision or land development plans (“SLD Plans”) and related waivers or modifications, most of you would likely say that I’m wrong, crazy, or flat out lying!  Most of you would say that planning agencies are to review and make recommendations on SLD Plans, and that governing bodies (e.g., councils, supervisors or commissioners) take action to approve or deny SLD Plans and waivers or modifications.  Well, most of you would be right, but only partially.
Continue Reading You Can’t Do that in Pennsylvania! Or Can You?: Planning Commissions Approving Subdivision/Land Development Plans

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

In two earlier blog posts from 2018, found here and here, we discussed the 2018 FCC Order, including the fee standards and “shot clocks” that were adopted by the FCC.  Of particular interest to municipalities were the fee standards and the safe harbor fees that municipalities are permitted to charge for small cell facilities.  To recap, the 2018 The FCC Order addressed three types of fees charged by municipalities: (1) fees for access to the public rights-of-way; (2) fees for the use of governmental property located in the public rights-of-way; and, (3) application review fees.  The safe harbor fees under the 2018 FCC Order are
Continue Reading Small Cell Facilities in the Public Rights-of-Way: The Ninth Circuit Weighs In

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

By now, most people have become aware of the exclusionary effects of single-family only zoning.  Cities and states have started to flip the concept of single-family only zoning on its head.  Cities like Minneapolis and Seattle and states like Oregon, California and Minnesota have passed (or are considering) legislation essentially outlawing single-family only zoning.  In these states and cities, laws or ordinances now permit additional dwelling types, such as accessory dwellings (i.e., granny-flats), duplexes, triplexes or quadplexes in areas that were formerly zoned exclusively for single-family detached dwellings.  These ordinances and laws are intended to remove land use and housing regulations that have served as economic, social or racial barriers for certain classes or groups of residents, by increasing access to more diverse or affordable housing options in areas previously off-limits.  Surprisingly, these laws and ordinances have broad-based support from disparate groups ranging from developers, home builders and chambers of commerce to housing or social service providers and activists (see YIMBYs).

By way of background, beginning in the early 1900s, communities started zoning most of their land exclusively for single-family detached dwellings.
Continue Reading Here is Your Chance to Love More New Neighbors (or Even Create that Family Compound You Have Always Wanted)

For most Pennsylvanians, it seems much longer than just over a month ago that Governor Wolf issued orders closing all “non-life-sustaining” businesses and directing all residents to “stay-at-home.”  While these orders have saved countless lives, they have also caused several businesses to either alter or shutdown their operations.  Many employees have been furloughed, laid-off or compelled to work from their homes.

Fortunately, modern technology has enabled certain office employees to continue working, not in their office buildings, but from their home offices.  These new home offices may be nothing more than unfinished basements or converted dining rooms, spare bedrooms or even kitchen tables.  These home office activities and functions are considered a form of home-based businesses or occupations (HBBs) as defined, permitted and regulated by most municipal zoning ordinances.  In many instances, new HBBs have been quite successful.  Therefore, while the Governor’s orders are not likely to remain in place in perpetuity, many businesses are considering modifying their operations to support increased use of HBBs even after the orders are lifted.

Many of the municipal HBB regulations were adopted several decades ago and may not reflect modern community planning, business or technology trends.
Continue Reading Modernizing Home Occupation Standards So You Can Continue Video Conferencing In Your Shorts From Your Basement Outpost

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