Pennsylvania Sets Agenda for Sound
by George H. Willis, PE, Urban Engineers,
Quoted from the Pennsylvania Constitution Section 27 (Adopted
May 18, 1971)
"Natural Resources and the Public Estate:
The people have a right to clean pure water, and to the preservation
of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the
environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the
common property of all the people, including generations yet
to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall
conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people."
In June 1997, Governor Ridge established the 21st Century Environment
Commission to recommend methods and policies that would improve
environmental quality in the Commonwealth. The intent was to
enhance economic and social progress. Among the Commissions
specific recommendations, one gave top priority to the challenge
of promoting responsible land use.
Existing trends nationwide and in Pennsylvania showed communities
struggling to manage rapid growth as a result of the economic
prosperity of the times. Land was frequently committed to new
uses, often in ways which would not enhance our environment
nor the long term regional economics. Pennsylvania's problem
was very specific. From 1992 to 1997 the Commonwealth was converting
cropland, forests and other open space to development at the
second highest rate in the nation.
In January 1999, Governor Ridge issued executive order 1999-1
citing the Pennsylvania's sound land use policy objectives.
Following, in February of that year, the Governor proposed the
"Growing Greener" budget initiative designed to refocus
environmental spending to promote sound land use, enhance natural
resources and to implement a watershed approach to protecting
Pennsylvania's environment. This initiative became law in December
1999 providing funding of nearly $650 million for the next 5
years to preserve farmland, create greenways and trails; and
protect open space.
The power to plan for development and regulate land use is
primarily vested in the local municipal entities by the Municipal
Planning Code (MPC). The State agencies also play a role because
so many projects are reviewed for funding, regulatory approvals,
To help develop the Governor's land use policy in Pennsylvania
a series of 53 public land use forums were held statewide in
the summer of 1999. Input was received from the public on current
practices, problems; and included significant general discussion.
Concurrently the Governor appointed representatives from across
Pennsylvania to the Sound Land Use Advisory Committee. This
committee was charged with producing an inventory of Land Use
in Pennsylvania, demonstrating various practices and tools.
In Pennsylvania, the Governor's Center for Local Government
is the primary agency responsible for land use assistance and
monitoring. Utilizing the forum information, the inventory,
and other resources, the Governor's Center in January 2000 made
three primary recommendations, which were successfully implemented
Of significance to the Pennsylvania Transportation Industry
are some of the effects from implementation of Acts 67 and
68 to the MPC. The first State agency to respond was the PaDEP.
A September 2000 correspondence to local Government officials
from DEP Secretary James Seif, noted the DEP will now require
municipalities and developers to submit with all permit applications,
information on consistency or conflicts with county land use
ordinances and comprehensive plans. Quoting from the letter
"These steps affect permit applications reviewed by DEP
for new facilities - buildings and structures - and infrastructure
- transportation, water, wastewater, storm water, energy,
and communication services." Community growth must now
be consistent with the Commonwealth "Grower Smarter"
initiative. The reality of this statement is, that the DEP,
in concert with local municipalities, now has the option to
deny a permit application that conflicts with local land use
ordinances. This ability brings a new set of controls to the
local community for managing growth.
1. Changes to the MPC relative to locally designated growth
municipal transferable development rights, and promoting general
consistency. Act 67 and 68 of 2000 provided these changes.
2. Promote Land Use education and training under a stateside
program including an inventory of educational opportunities.
Statewide Growing Smarter Courses are offered and Center maintains
3. Promote Planning Assistance through increased funds and
technical support. Specifically $3.6 million through LUPTAP
Grants and Technical Assistance.
The smart growth initiative will have far reaching consequences
throughout Pennsylvania. If you would like more information
check the website at: http://www.landuseinpa.com
To quote from the Governor's Center 2000 Annual Report on Land
Use, "There is great promise in the number of individuals
and communities working together to support and promote land
use planning." This is the nations leading edge in responsible
land use planning which will drive revitalization in Pennsylvania."
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