REGIONAL PLANNING IN PENNSYLVANIA*
Pennsylvania Acts 67 and 68, passed in 2000 to amend the Municipalities Planning Code (MCP), enable and provide incentives for the state’s municipalities to cooperate in the preparation and implementation of multi-municipal plans.
Pennsylvania’s 2,563 municipalities have a tradition of strong local governments. In recent years, however, there has been increased recognition that excessive localism can lead to problems at the regional level. Development in one municipality can adversely impact water quality or road congestion in another. Competition between municipalities for commercial development may encourage suburban “sprawl” and also contribute to a declining tax base in older communities. Among other benefits, regional planning can provide a way to plan for the regional impacts of development.
- Increased Communication: Enhanced communication and information sharing is a significant benefit to regional planning. Municipalities are provided with an opportunity to share concerns or offer advice on how to handle an important issue.
- Good Planning: Through multi-municipal planning, municipalities have the opportunity to utilize multi-municipal transfer-of-development-rights (TDR) programs. Multi-municipal TDRs enable municipalities to protect the region’s rural resource areas by directing growth across municipal lines to designated growth areas. Establishing growth areas gives the region the opportunity to target areas for revitalization, economic development, historic preservation, and neighborhood enhancement. Conversely, designating rural resource areas on a regional scale can provide protection to sensitive watersheds, concentrations of significant farmland or woodlands, as well as unique geology across municipalities.
- Shared Land Uses: Pennsylvania courts have held that every municipality that chooses to use zoning must provide for every lawful land use within its borders. This requirement, however, can sometimes encourage municipalities to “over-zone” for certain uses, leading to excessive and haphazard development. Multi-municipal planning allows local governments to provide for a variety of land uses and dwelling types, but not necessarily within the boundaries of each municipality. Multi-municipal planning encourages land use decisions that are more rational in respect to economic development, fiscal impacts, environmental protection, and quality of life.
- State Agency Review: Pennsylvania state agencies can prioritize funding and assistance to municipalities participating in multi-municipal plans.
- Funding Opportunities: Pennsylvania’s Land Use Planning and Technical Assistant Program (LUPTAP) provides state support for local land use planning. The guidelines for LUPTAP funding give priority to the preparation and implementation of multi-municipal plans. Additionally, regional planning commissions, foundations, and other organizations have provided funding for multi-municipal planning.