Municipalities Planning Code Amendments

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Hotline, Summer 2000

Now that the dust has settled and the State Legislature has taken a break, here’s what they left us as far as land use planning is concerned. On June 22, 2000, Act 68 of 2000 was signed into law. This was Senate Bill 300. While Senator Gerlack’s name is listed as the sponsor of the Bill, the Senate did what it so often does; it struck out all of the wording in the bill, and substituted House Bill 13 wording in the Bill. It took about a year and a half for both houses to come to an agreement.

Act 68 amends the Municipalities Planning Code (Act 247 of 1968) and gives the local officials better tools for which to plan and manage growth. In addition, the act added new definitions for traditional neighborhood development and clarified the relationship between comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances. For example, the act defines “consistancy”, a very contentious item, as “an agreement or correspondence between matters that denotes a reasonable, rational, and similar connection or relationship.” If the act was to make actions clearer, then on this account alone, it failed. This is what happens when you try to please the planners, the home builders association, and the developers at the same time.

Comprehensive plans are required to contain a statement indicating the compatibility between existing and proposed development with the development and plans in contiguous portions of neighboring municipalities or indicating that buffers or transitional devices will be used. The comprehensive plan must also contain a statement indicating that the existing and proposed development is generally consistent with the objectives of the county comprehensive plan.

Municipal or multimunicipal comprehensive plans must be reviewed every 10 years, and the plans must be sent to the county planning commission (Allegheny County does not have a planning commission) and contiguous municipalities for review and comment. The county planning commission will review municipal plans for general consistancy with the county plan and indicate where the municipal plan may have deviated from the county plan.

The county planning commission is required to publish advisory guidelines to promote general consistency by encouraging uniformity in zoning terminology and land use regulations. The county is required to consider amendments to the county plan proposed by municipalities that are considering adoption or revision of their plans to achieve general consistancy between the plans. The county plan must be updated at least once every 10 years. If two or more neighboring municipalities request amendments to the county plan, to achieve general consistancy between the plans, the county must accept the amendments unless a good cause is established to refuse them.

Municipal zoning, subdivision and land development regulations and capitol improvement programs must generally implement the municipal comprehensive plan, or where none exists, the municipal statement of community development objectives. If the zoning ordinance is amended and is no longer generally consistent with the comprehensive plan, the plan must be concurrently amended.

The county planning commission must offer mediation to any municipality contending that an application for a subdivision or land development in another municipality would be detrimental to it. Both municipalities would have to agree to mediation and share the cost. If the issue arises, the applicant has the right to participate in the mediation.

There are other items in the act, but as I see the glaze in your eyes, I’ll stop now and in the next Hotline, I’ll write about House Bill 14 or Act 67 of 2000, a companion act to Act 68.

by Marilyn Skolnick, GASP Board Member