Municipalities Planning Code

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?

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

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

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

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

Last month, my colleague Christopher Knarr and I presented a webinar for the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (“PSATS”) on the importance flexibility in zoning ordinances. When we put the presentation together in early 2020, we expected to be speaking in person at PSATS’ annual conference. Obviously, COVID-19 changed those plans. The economic impacts of the virus, however, only made our topic timelier.

From national retail chains to local restaurants, every day seems to bring a new headline of another business closure. Even in industries that have remained strong throughout the crisis questions remain about how we will define the “new normal.” Are large office complexes a thing of the past? Can companies reduce their physical footprints (and thus their overhead) by allowing employees to continue to work remotely even after the threat of the virus have waned? And, if we do continue to meet in virtual spaces rather than physical ones, what will happen to the restaurants, retail stores, and offices that we once occupied?
Continue Reading Defining the “New Normal”: How Flexible Zoning Can Help us Rebuild our Communities

The immediate and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to change the way businesses operate and communities plan, zone and regulate land use and development.  Below is a summary of a few issues and trends facing communities and businesses.  Municipalities should proactively approach this “new normal” and consider modifying zoning and other land

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