Zoning & Land Use Planning
Importance & Our Approach
Zoning and Land Use in our area can be quite complex as our area strives for a balance of open space, historic preservation, and green living along with the needs of a growing area population who need housing, shopping and manufacturing to sustain the community.
OWM Law’s experienced Land Use & Zoning attorneys represent landowners and their rights and responsibilities when it comes to using and developing their property.
We help prepare, submit and present landowner applications before local governments, township boards, planning commissioners and community groups.
How We Can Help You
OWM Zoning and Land Use attorneys will represent you in the acquisition and planning process and guide you through all documentation, submittals, applications, exceptions and appeals, as well as the community communication and education process.
Call 610-323-2800 to speak with a Zoning and Land Use Attorney today.
What is Zoning & Land Use Planning?
Zoning is a planning control tool for regulating the built environment and creating functional real estate markets. It does so by dividing land that comprises the statutory area of a local authority into sections, permitting particular land uses on specific sites to shape the layout of towns and cities and enable various types of development. It determines the location, size, and use of buildings and decides the density of city blocks, etc.
Are there restrictions to how a landowner can develop his own property?
The right of a landowner to develop and use his real property is regulated or restricted by various legal requirements, including zoning ordinances and subdivision and land development ordinances.
A landowner must review zoning ordinances to determine if his proposed use of a building or land is allowed. The provisions of the subdivision* and land development** ordinance must be consulted if the landowner intends to subdivide or develop his property. A careful purchaser of real property will review the various zoning, subdivision and land development requirements on the land before he finally acquires the property.
* Subdivision concerns to the creation of new lots or changes in property lines.
** Land Development involves the construction of public or private improvements to land.
Why is Zoning Needed?
According to the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services, zoning is a method a community may use to regulate the use of land and structures. It is initiated by the adoption of a zoning ordinance designed to protect the public health, safety and welfare and to guide growth.*
A zoning ordinance divides all land within a municipality into districts and creates regulations that apply generally to the municipality as a whole as well as specifically to individual districts.
Studies and recommendations to determine the boundaries or need for districts are contained in a document called a ‘comprehensive plan.’
*Governor’s Center for Local Government Services, “Zoning,” Planning Series #4, Harrisburg, PA, May 2003
What is the Relationship Between Planning & Zoning?
Planning Looks to the Future. In the form of a comprehensive plan, it involves taking inventory of development alternatives, analyzing collected data, projecting future growth and development alternatives, and establishing policies to be implemented in the future. It is a blueprint for future development of the community.
In contrast, zoning is one method of implementing the plan. It is based upon the comprehensive plan, and helps to put the plan into effect. Zoning is oriented to the present, whereas a comprehensive plan has a horizon of 15 to 20 years.*
*Governor’s Center for Local Government Services, “Zoning,” Planning Series #4, Ninth Edition, Harrisburg, PA, May 2003
Who administers a Zoning Ordinance?
A zoning ordinance is generally administered by two entities – a zoning officer and a zoning hearing board.
What is the role of the Zoning Officer?
The administration of a zoning ordinance falls in the first instance on the zoning officer of the municipality. Among the functions of the zoning officer is to receive and review permit applications subject to the zoning ordinance, and to grant or denying the applications on the basis of a strict reading of the ordinance.
What is the Zoning Hearing Board?
After the zoning officer, the administration of the zoning ordinance falls under the jurisdiction of the zoning hearing board. The zoning hearing board is a quasi-judicial body consisting of three or five residents of the municipality. The zoning hearing board has jurisdiction over various matters, including appeals questioning the correctness of a decision of the zoning officer, applications seeking a special exception, or appeal or applications seeking a variance.
The zoning hearing board holds hearings on each application. Decisions of the zoning hearing board may be appealed to the local court of common pleas, and thereafter to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court and, if allowed, to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Following the conclusion of a hearing, a zoning hearing board is required to issue a written decision upon the appeal or application.
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