Local Land Use Planning Provisions in Pennsylvania

Land Use Planning Agencies/Responsibilities

According to the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (53  Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 10101 et seq.), the governing body of any municipality (cities, boroughs, incorporated towns, townships, counties, home rule municipalities) (53  Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 10107) may elect to establish a planning commission and/or planning department (53  Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 10201). If a municipality establishes a planning commission or planning department, the planning agency shall be required to prepare a comprehensive plan for the municipality’s consideration (53  Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 10209.1(a)(1)).

Counties are required to prepare and adopt a comprehensive plan (53  Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 10301.4(a)). If a municipality chooses to adopt a comprehensive plan, it must ensure that its municipal comprehensive plan is consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan (53  Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 10301.4(a)). Comprehensive plans must be reviewed every ten years (53  Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 10301(c)).

Mandatory Local Plan Elements Related to Biodiversity

Under the Municipal Planning Code, a municipal comprehensive plan must include “[a] plan for the protection of natural and historic resources to the extent not preempted by Federal or State law. This clause includes, but is not limited to, wetlands and aquifer recharge zones, woodlands, steep slopes, prime agricultural land, flood plains, unique natural areas and historic sites.” (53  Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 10301(a)(6)). Comprehensive plans must match – and may not exceed – the environmental standards in several enumerated state laws (53  Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 10301(a)(6)).

Plans must identify land uses “as they relate to important natural resources and appropriate utilization of existing minerals.” (53  Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 10301(a)(7)(i)). Plans are required to describe the interrelationships among the various plan components, and this description may include an estimate of environmental and other consequences of the plan on the municipality (53  Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 10301(a)(4.1)). Among the stated purposes of the Municipal Planning Code is the provision that wherever the act “promotes, encourages, requires or authorizes” governing bodies to protect, preserve or conserve open land, consisting of natural resources, forests and woodlands, any actions taken to protect, preserve or conserve such land shall not be for the purposes of precluding access for forestry (53  Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 10305).

Discretionary Local Plan Elements Related to Biodiversity

Additional Local Authorities and Responsibilities Related to Planning and Biodiversity

Mechanisms for Monitoring and Enforcing Local Compliance

       Funding Restrictions on Localities

The state gives priority in awarding grants for the development of comprehensive plans to municipalities that agree to adopt plans that are consistent with the county plan and that agree to enact a new zoning ordinance or amendment to fully implement the municipal comprehensive plan (53  Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 10301.5).

       Review of Local Plans

A municipal or multimunicipal comprehensive plan must be sent to the Center for Local Government Services “for informational purposes.” Plans must be sent for review and comment to contiguous municipalities and to the county planning commissions or regional planning commissions (53  Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 10301(c). See also id. at § 10301.3).

In addition, counties “must solicit comment from….the Center for Local Government Services, for informational purposes…during the process of preparing or updating a county comprehensive plan in order to determine future growth needs.” (53  Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 10306).

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