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Pennsylvania Land Use Planning (1-PA-a)

In Pennsylvania, land use planning is delegated to municipalities and counties. 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§10201 . The governing body of a municipality or county has the authority to prepare, adopt and amend comprehensive land use and zoning plans. 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§10209.1, 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§10302. Pennsylvania local governments may adopt any plans or ordinances they deem necessary, as long as they conform to the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Code. 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§10209.1.


Land Use Planning Process

1-PA-a.1 to 1-PA-a.2 — Is there a Comprehensive Land Use Plan in Place?

The developer should contact the local government to determine if there is a comprehensive land use plan in place for the site location.

The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (Planning Code) encourages local governments to create a comprehensive land use plan, however it is not required. 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§10209.1. The Planning Code gives the local government the authority to implement and amend a comprehensive land use and zoning plan. 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§10209.1. Municipal and county comprehensive land use plans provide context for determining if the proposed development activity is compatible with the community’s overall plans for development.

If there is a comprehensive land use plan in place the developer should review the plans and any accompanying maps, studies, or other information in order to determine the goals and planning strategies of the local government and to ensure the proposed project is in compliance with the plan. If there is no comprehensive land use plan in place the developer should still review any applicable local government regulations that could restrict the proposed project.

1-PA-a.3 to 1-PA-a.5 — Does the Municipality or County have Zoning Regulations?

If there is a zoning plan, the developer should review the plans and other information to determine if the proposed project is in compliance with the zoning plan. If there is no zoning plan in place, the developer should still review applicable municipal and county zoning regulations to ensure the proposed project will comply with any development restrictions before continuing with the project.

1-PA-a.6 to 1-PA-a.8 — Determine if the Project Conforms with Local Zoning Regulations

If the locality has zoning regulations, the developer needs to determine whether the project conforms to the regulations. If the project is consistent with the regulations, the developer may continue with the project as described in the regulations. If the project is not consistent with the regulations, the developer will need to follow the local government’s process for issuing a zoning variance or for amending the zoning regulations.

1-PA-a.9 — Contact Local Government for Zoning Variance or Amendment to Zoning Regulations

A developer should contact the local government, with jurisdiction over the proposed project site, to discuss the possibility of a zoning variance, or an amendment to a zoning regulation and the details of the regulatory process. Local governments have the authority to amend the entire comprehensive land use plan or parts of the plan. 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§10601. The local government can make amendments to the zoning regulations at any time, as long as they are compatible with the local comprehensive plan and the Planning Code. 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§10603(k).

1-PA-a.10 — Petition for Zoning Variance or Amendment to Zoning Regulations

The developer should petition for a zoning variance or amendment in the manner prescribed by the local government.

1-PA-a.11 to 1-PA-a.12 — Provide Notice of Public Hearing

The local government must hold a public hearing prior to enacting a proposed zoning ordinance or amendment. 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§10610(a). Notice of a hearing should be given in a newspaper with general circulation between 60 and 7 days before the passage of the ordinance. 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§10610(a).

1-PA-a.13 — Proceed with Zoning Variance or Amendment Process

After the hearing, the municipal or county government and developer can proceed with the zoning variance or amendment process.

1-PA-a.14 — Appeal Decision (Optional)

An interested party may appeal a land use decision at the local district court within 30 days of the decision. 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§101002.


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Edit Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development
Planning Program Manager 412-770-1660 dpuko@paabbazabbagov Visit Website