Introducing and Amending Local Rules
Protective language can be added to the zoning code through community action and organizing. Through collaborative efforts you can help convince your neighbors and local authorities that protecting residents through zoning is a wise thing to do.
If you have:
- Looked at your local and/or county zoning plan and found it does not protect the issues you are concerned about;
- Established that more protective language would be useful;
- Consulted with community members, certified professionals such as land use planners;
- Identified some specific opportunities to incorporate protective language; and
- Used professionals such as attorneys, land use planners, or other experts to help you draft language....
Then you may want to begin the process of updating your zoning ordinance.
Determining the type of protective language you want to introduce will determine your first step. Let’s say you’ve established that your township is a perfect candidate for a Historical Resources overlay (this would be protective because proposed development would need to show that it would protect the historic integrity of the neighborhood, which fracking would not.)
If your area already has zoning you would introduce the overlay as an amendment to the existing zoning scheme. You would submit the proposal and follow the timeline set forth in section 609 of the PA Municipal Planning Code for Enactment of Zoning Ordinance Amendments.
On the other hand, if you wished to create zoning in a township that has no zoning then you would be introducing a new rule. Although the process for introducing an ordinance and the process for amending an ordinance have many similarities - such as public notification requirements and opportunities for public comment - it is important to be sure you are familiar with the correct, specific requirements.
Also, depending on the protective language you wish to implement, you may have to submit the application to different places. For example: if you wished to rezone an area you would first submit that proposal to your local Board of Commissioners, whereas other types of proposals may need to be submitted to a planning commission or your Zoning Hearing Board first. This is explored more in “Understanding the Land Use Permitting Process”
Ultimately, the PA Municipal Planning Code (MPC) and your own township's rules determine the process that you will need to undertake in order to introduce or amend protective language.
The following sections of the MPC are some of the most important to be familiar with:
- Preparation of Proposed Zoning Ordinance - § 607
- Enactment of Zoning Ordinance - § 608
- Enactment of Zoning Ordinance Amendments - § 609
It is important to follow the MPC and your township's rules very closely. If you or your municipality skips or forgets a step it very likely means you have to start over and undo or redo a lot of your hard work.
- Township Supervisors Handbook, specifically section on Land Use Control and Environmental Regulation;
- Local Land Use Controls in Pennsylvania – Planning Series #1;
- Zoning – Planning Series #4 specifically sections on “Preparation of the Zoning Ordinance” and “Adopting and Amending the Zoning Ordinance”
- PA MPC Made Easy!