It has been an eventful year for municipal land use.
Here are a few of the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective):
The pipelines are coming!
2017 may very well be the year of the pipeline in Pennsylvania. With the Legislature grappling over whether to tax them and with ongoing legal battles on the Oil and Gas Act, this year saw landowners and municipalities: negotiating pipeline easement agreements; clashing over whether pipeline companies have the legal right to condemn land along the pipeline’s march toward Marcus Hook (by most accounts, the Courts have said yes); and dealing with the aftermath and additional regulatory fights as drilling/installing those pipelines has gone awry (bentonite, anyone?). Reminiscent of protesters chaining themselves to trees, we even saw reports of Catholic nuns building a chapel in the path of one pipeline to block condemnation efforts.
In 2016, Pennsylvania joined the growing list of states that now permit some limited form or medicinal marijuana. With a rigorous (read: expensive) state permitting process complete, medical marijuana dispensaries and growing operations are moving full steam ahead. As these uses approach, however, it begs the question as to whether your township or borough zoning ordinance addresses them; whether you are legally permitted to regulate them; and what factors should be considered. Read more on this topic here.
MS4 and TMDLs, Floodplains Galore
September brought a regulatory double-whammy for many municipalities. MS4 Permits were due (think stormwater), which included for the first time the affirmative requirement for municipalities to include plans for reducing nitrogen and phosphorous levels by 10%. How? Your engineer will have recommendations, but the regulators would say that you might have to beg, borrow or steal (in other words: ask landowners to use their land for the additional stormwater controls; borrow money to make it happen; or condemn property to install if necessary). September also brought the deadline for many municipalities to enact updated Floodplain Ordinance regulations. The state-wide FEMA coordinator was helpful along the way, but the penalties for not adopting the ordinance were stiff. Failure to do so would result in all residents being ineligible for the federal flood insurance program.
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