Some Pennsylvania municipalities are throwing out their zoning ordinances and designing fresh ones from scratch, with a little help from their neighbors. These new and (hopefully) improved ordinances not only include modified zoning districts and adapted language and concepts, but also new zoning maps – sometimes more than triple the size of the old ones. Although uncommon, this approach – which combines multiple municipal zoning jurisdictions into one, shared jurisdiction – is neither new nor unlawful. In fact, the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (the “MPC”) dedicates an entire Article to the requirements and implementation of this concept, referred to as “joint municipal zoning.”
The crux of joint municipal zoning is the adoption of a joint zoning ordinance (“JZO”), which is exactly what it sounds like: under Article VIII-A of the MPC, two or more municipalities (“participating municipalities”) may agree to a single zoning ordinance pursuant to a joint comprehensive plan. The JZO is subsequently prepared by a joint planning commission directed by the governing bodies of the participating municipalities.
The benefits of JZOs are readily apparent, at least in theory