A recent Commonwealth Court decision affirmed that municipalities within Pennsylvania are not immune from claims of adverse possession.  In City of Philadelphia v. Galdo, 181 A3d. 1289 (Pa. Commw. 2018), the Commonwealth Court held that the City of Philadelphia had lost title to a property that it had previously condemned to an adjacent property owner who adversely possessed the property.

The City had acquired the property in 1974 by condemnation for the purpose of allowing PennDOT a temporary right-of-way across the property during the construction of an adjacent roadway.

Continue Reading Municipalities Can Lose Property Through Adverse Possession

In all facets of life, simple mistakes or a lack of understanding can lead to unwanted results. In the world of land use, such unwanted consequences can occur when required notice procedures for zoning hearings are not strictly followed. This blog post reviews both the public notice and written notice requirements that zoning hearing boards (the “Board”) must follow prior to the first hearing.

Under Section 908(1) of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (the “MPC”), a Board must give “public notice” of the hearing. “Public notice” is defined in the MPC as “notice published once each week for two successive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality.” The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court interpreted “successive weeks” to be Continue Reading An Important Notice – Regarding Notice

When you order something online, you can immediately begin tracking the package and continue to track it until it arrives at your doorstep. Imagine if the same process was possible with all state permit applications. That is what House Bill No. 1959 (the “Bill”) intends to do. The Bill, also known as the Permit Administration Act, would implement a tracking system for state permit applications. It would create an accessible tracking system for state permit applications that would allow applicants to see the status of their applications during each step of the process. The main goal of the Bill is to make the permit application process more transparent and to provide for more timely action on state permit applications. Continue Reading Reducing Red Tape: The Permit Administration Act

Zoning is, at its core, the municipal regulation of the use of land.  Today, a municipality regulates the use of land by implementing a zoning ordinance.  However, as far back as the 18th century, land use regulations were enacted in Pennsylvania.  Early land use regulations in Pennsylvania and elsewhere were generally concerned with preventing the spread of fires.  For example, an act was adopted in the 1700s that prohibited baking and barrel making except in shops or places built of masonry.  After the Revolutionary War, a law was adopted that prohibited storing more than 30 pounds of gunpowder within two miles of Philadelphia.  The concept of setbacks (i.e., the required distance between a structure and a property line) was implemented to provide for adequate distances between buildings to prevent the spread of fires.

Lower Merion Township was the first municipality in Pennsylvania to adopt a zoning ordinance. Continue Reading A Brief History of Zoning in Pennsylvania

This is the second post in a two-post series on the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”), with which developers and water companies see the return of a tax policy with negative consequences for development.  Effective this year, advances for construction (“Advances”) and Contributions in Aid of Construction (“CIAC”) for water systems are treated as taxable income.  Essentially, water companies must include in taxable income the contributed property or cash needed to connect a development to a water system.  This tax adds significant costs to developers when water companies pass the tax to developers.  At the same time, more work is created for water companies which must gross up Advances and CIAC (together, “A/CIAC”) and later recalculate those costs based on the actual cost of construction and gross up refunds.  This post provides insight on ways to mitigate the negative effects of the TCJA on development in Pennsylvania. Continue Reading UPDATE! Developers Beware! Water lines may cost more thanks to the Tax Cut and Jobs Act – Part 2

Many people do not understand the purpose of eminent domain or why it is permitted.  Kandice Hull does a great job in the podcast below explaining eminent domain and the power of condemnation.

Eminent Domain Podcast

Please take a few minutes to watch the video and do not hesitate to reach out to the Land Use Group of Kandice (Profile) with any questions.

There is no doubt the best development occurs when developers and development professionals are able to work with municipal leaders and staff on a project.  So, it is for the benefit of all when developers and development professionals find ways to engage and help educate municipal leaders and staff in the area of land use.

Many professionals involved in commercial real estate and land development (development professionals) attend and teach educational seminars offered by private developer-focused organizations such as Urban Land Institute (ULI), NAIOP, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and state bar associations.  We attend or teach those training and educational seminars for personal and professional reasons, including to: (i) gain additional skills or deepen our knowledge base; (ii) keep up with the latest and emerging trends; (iii) give back to and improve the profession; (iv) network and market; and, of course (v) fulfill our continuing educational credit obligations.

For similar reasons, municipal officials and staff, who review and act on land development plans, zoning amendments, challenges and other forms of relief, attend and participate in the same or similar training and educational seminars.  Continue Reading Education and Training – More than Just CEUs/CLEs

With the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”), developers and water and wastewater companies see the return of a tax policy that has significant consequences for both groups.  This is the first post in a two-post series discussing the history of “Advances” and “CIAC” and the practical effect of the TCJA on construction, dedication and utilization of water lines in Pennsylvania.  In short, the cost of doing business just increased for developers, while water companies once again are saddled with additional work.  This post provides background and history while a second post will provide insight on working through the issues. Continue Reading Developers Beware! Water Lines May Cost More Due To The Tax Cut And Jobs Act – Part 1

This Blog previously discussed the headaches created for municipalities and their residents when zoning ordinances are not updated to account for short-term rentals, such as AirBNB and VRBO. But what do municipalities need to do to update their zoning ordinances? What thought processes should be followed? And what other new uses are primed to create – or are already creating – interpretational issues like those created by short-term rentals? This post, and others that will follow, answers those questions. After reading this post, I encourage you to go back and read our prior posts on two short-term rental cases that are case studies for what happens when zoning ordinances are not updated to account for new uses. In addition, please continue to check back over the following months as I introduce our readers to new uses that may not be adequately considered by municipal zoning ordinances. Continue Reading Updating Antiquated Zoning Ordinances: Educate. Evaluate. Amend.

This post, which is the second in a two-part series exploring the scope of Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment (the “ERA”), will delve deeper into the text of the ERA as analyzed and explained by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Fund (“PEDF”) v. Commonwealth, 161 A.3d 911 (Pa. 2017).

In PEDF, the Court ruled that the ERA grants citizens of the Commonwealth two distinct rights: 1) the right to clean air and pure water, and to the preservation of natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment; and 2) the right of common ownership by the people, including future generations, of Pennsylvania’s public natural resources. The Court noted that the first right, which comes directly from the text of the ERA itself, “places a limitation on the state’s power to act contrary to [the] right, and while the subject of the right may be amenable to regulation, any laws that unreasonably impair the right are unconstitutional.” Despite this declaration by the Court, the scope and meaning of the first right remains undefined. It remains to be seen how the courts will define “clean air” or “pure water” and even more intangibly, who will determine which “scenic” or “esthetic” values are worthy of preservation? Continue Reading The PA Supreme Court’s Revival of the Environmental Rights Amendment – Part 2