Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code

Article 1 - General Provisions

Section 101. Short Title. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code.”

Section 102. Effective Date. This act shall take effect January 1, 1969.

Section 103. Construction of Act. The provisions of this act shall not affect any act done, contract executed or liability incurred prior to its effective date, or affect any suit or prosecution pending or to be instituted, to enforce any right, rule, regulation, or ordinance or to punish any offense against any such repealed laws or against any ordinance enacted under them. All ordinances, resolutions, regulations and rules made pursuant to any act of Assembly repealed by this act shall continue in effect as if such act had not been repealed, except as the provisions are inconsistent herewith. The provisions of other acts relating to municipalities other than cities of the first and second class and counties of the second class are made a part of this act and this code shall be construed to give effect to all provisions of other acts not specifically repealed.

Section 104. Constitutional Construction. The provisions of this act shall be severable, and if any of its provisions shall be held to be unconstitutional, the validity of any of the remaining provisions of this act shall not be affected. It is hereby declared as the legislative intention that this act would have been adopted had such unconstitutional provision not been included therein.

Section 105. Purpose of Act. It is the intent, purpose and scope of this act to protect and promote safety, health and morals; to accomplish coordinated development; to provide for the general welfare by guiding and protecting amenity, convenience, future governmental, economic, practical, and social and cultural facilities, development and growth, as well as the improvement of governmental processes and functions; to guide uses of land and structures, type and location of streets, public grounds and other facilities; to promote the conservation of energy through the use of planning practices and to promote the effective utilization of renewable energy sources; to promote the preservation of this Commonwealth’s natural and historic resources and prime agricultural land; to encourage municipalities to adopt municipal or joint municipal comprehensive plans generally consistent with the county comprehensive plan; to promote small business development and foster a business-friendly environment in this Commonwealth; to ensure that municipalities adopt zoning ordinances which are generally consistent with the municipality’s comprehensive plan; to encourage the preservation of prime agricultural land and natural and historic resources through easements, transfer of development rights and rezoning; to ensure that municipalities enact zoning ordinances that facilitate the present and future economic viability of existing agricultural operations in this Commonwealth and do not prevent or impede the owner or operator’s need to change or expand their operations in the future in order to remain viable; to encourage the revitalization of established urban centers; and to permit municipalities to minimize such problems as may presently exist or which may be foreseen and wherever the provisions of this act promote, encourage, require or authorize governing bodies to protect, preserve or conserve open land, consisting of natural resources, forests and woodlands, any actions taken to protect, preserve or conserve such land shall not be for the purposes of precluding access for forestry.

Section 106. Appropriations, Grants and Gifts. The governing body of every municipality is hereby authorized and empowered to make such appropriations as it may see fit, to accept gifts, grants or bequests from public and private sources for the purpose of carrying out the powers and duties conferred by this act, and to enter into agreements regarding the acceptance or utilization of such grants, gifts or bequests further providing for recording plats and deeds, for applicability of ordinance amendments and for validity of ordinance and substantive questions.

Section 107. Definitions.

(a) The following words and phrases when used in this act shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

“Agricultural operation,” an enterprise that is actively engaged in the commercial production and preparation for market of crops, livestock and livestock products and in the production, harvesting and preparation for market or use of agricultural, agronomic, horticultural, silvicultural and aquacultural crops and commodities. The term includes an enterprise that implements changes in production practices and procedures or types of crops, livestock, livestock products or commodities produced consistent with practices and procedures that are normally engaged by farmers or are consistent with technological development within the agricultural industry.

“Applicant,” a landowner or developer, as hereinafter defined, who has filed an application for development including his heirs, successors and assigns.

“Application for development,” every application, whether preliminary, tentative or final, required to be filed and approved prior to start of construction or development including but not limited to an application for a building permit, for the approval of a subdivision plat or plan or for the approval of a development plan.

“Appointing authority,” the mayor in cities; the board of commissioners in counties; the council in incorporated towns and boroughs; the board of commissioners in townships of the first class; and the board of supervisors in townships of the second class; or as may be designated in the law providing for the form of government.

“Authority,” a body politic and corporate created pursuant to the act of May 2, 1945 (P.L.382, No.164), known as the “Municipality Authorities Act of 1945.”

“Center for Local Government Services.” The Governor’s Center for Local Government Services located within the Department of Community and Economic Development.

“City” or “cities,” cities of the second class A and third class.

“Common open space,” a parcel or parcels of land or an area of water, or a combination of land and water within a development site and designed and intended for the use or enjoyment of residents of a development, not including streets, off-street parking areas, and areas set aside for public facilities.

“Conditional use,” a use permitted in a particular zoning district pursuant to the provisions in Article VI.

“Consistency,” an agreement or correspondence between matters being compared which denotes a reasonable rational, similar, connection or relationship.

“County,” any county of the second class through eighth class.

“County Comprehensive Plan,” a land use and growth management plan prepared by the county planning commission and adopted by the county commissioners which establishes broad goals and criteria for municipalities to use in preparation of their comprehensive plan and land use regulation.

“Designated growth area,” a region within a county or counties described in a municipal or multimunicipal plan that preferably includes and surrounds a city, borough or village, and within which residential and mixed use development is permitted or planned for at densities of one unit to the acre or more, commercial, industrial and institutional uses are permitted or planned for and public infrastructure services are provided or planned.

“Developer,” any landowner, agent of such landowner, or tenant with the permission of such land-owner, who makes or causes to be made a subdivision of land or a land development.

“Development of regional significance and impact,” any land development that, because of its character, magnitude, or location will have substantial effect upon the health, safety, or welfare of citizens in more than one municipality.

“Development plan,” the provisions for development, including a planned residential development, a plat of subdivision, all covenants relating to use, location and bulk of buildings and other structures, intensity of use or density of development, streets, ways and parking facilities, common open space and public facilities. The phrase “provisions of the development plan” when used in this act shall mean the written and graphic materials referred to in this definition.

“Forestry,” the management of forests and timberlands when practiced in accordance with accepted silvicultural principles, through developing, cultivating, harvesting, transporting and selling trees for commercial purposes, which does not involve any land development.

“Future growth area,” an area of a municipal or multimunicipal plan outside of and adjacent to a designated growth area where residential, commercial industrial and institutional uses and development are permitted or planned at varying densities an d public infrastructure services may or may not be provided, but future development at greater densities is planned to accompany the orderly extension an provision of public infrastructure services.

“General consistency, generally consistent,” that which exhibits consistency.

“Governing body,” the council in cities, boroughs and incorporated towns; the board of commissioners in townships of the first class; the board of supervisors in townships of the second class; the board of commissioners in counties of the second class through eighth class or as may be designated in the law providing for the form of government.

“Land development,” any of the following activities:

(1) The improvement of one lot or two or more contiguous lots, tracts or parcels of land for any purpose involving:

(i) a group of two or more residential or nonresidential buildings, whether proposed initially or cumulatively, or a single nonresidential building on a lot or lots regardless of the number of occupants or tenure; or

(ii) the division or allocation of land or space, whether initially or cumulatively, between or among two or more existing or prospective occupants by means of, or for the purpose of streets, common areas, leaseholds, condominiums, building groups or other features.

(2) A subdivision of land.

“Landowner,” the legal or beneficial owner or owners of land including the holder of an option or contract to purchase (whether or not such option or contract is subject to any condition), a lessee if he is authorized under the lease to exercise the rights of the landowner, or other person having a proprietary interest in land.

“Lot,” a designated parcel, tract or area of land established by a plat or otherwise as permitted by law and to be used, developed or built upon as a unit.

“Mediation,” a voluntary negotiating process in which parties in a dispute mutually select a neutral mediator to assist them in jointly exploring and settling their differences, culminating in a written agreement which the parties themselves create and consider acceptable.

“Minerals,” any aggregate or mass of mineral matter, whether or not coherent. The term includes, but is not limited to, limestone and dolomite, sand and gravel, rock and stone, earth, fill, slag, iron ore, zinc ore, vermiculite and clay, anthracite and bituminous coal, coal refuse, peat and crude oil and natural gas.

“Mobilehome,” a transportable, single family dwelling intended for permanent occupancy, contained in one unit, or in two or more units designed to be joined into one integral unit capable of again being separated for repeated towing, which arrives at a site complete and ready for occupancy except for minor and incidental unpacking and assembly operations, and constructed so that it may be used without a permanent foundation.

“Mobilehome lot,” a parcel of land in a mobilehome park, improved with the necessary utility connections and other appurtenances necessary for the erections thereon of a single mobilehome.

“Mobilehome park,” a parcel or contiguous parcels of land which has been so designated and improved that it contains two or more mobilehome lots for the placement thereon of mobilehomes.

"Multimunicipal plan," a plan developed and adopted by any number of contiguous municipalities, including a joint municipal plan as authorized by this act, except that all of the municipalities participating in the plan need not be contiguous, if all of them are within the same school district.

“Multimunicipal planning agency,” a planning agency comprised of representatives of more than one municipality and constituted as a joint municipal planning commission in accordance with Article XI, or otherwise by resolution of the participating municipalities, to address, on behalf of the participating municipalities, multimunicipal issues, including, but not limited to, agricultural and open space preservation, natural and historic resources, transportation, housing and economic development.

“Municipal authority,” a body politic and corporate created pursuant to the act of May 2, 1945 (P.L.382, No.164), known as the “Municipality Authorities Act of 1945.”

“Municipal engineer,” a professional engineer licensed as such in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, duly appointed as the engineer for a municipality, planning agency or joint planning commission.

“Municipality,” any city of the second class A or third class, borough, incorporated town, township of the first or second class, county of the second class through eighth class, home rule municipality, or any similar general purpose unit of government which shall hereafter be created by the General Assembly.

“No-impact home-based business,” a business or commercial activity administered or conducted as an accessory use which is clearly secondary to the use as a residential dwelling and which involves no customer, client or patient traffic, whether vehicular or pedestrian, pickup, delivery or removal functions to or from the premises, in excess of those normally associated with residential use. The business or commercial activity must satisfy the following requirements:

(1) The business activity shall be compatible with the residential use of the property and surrounding residential uses.

(2) The business shall employ no employees other than family members residing in the dwelling.

(3) There shall be no display or sale of retail goods and no stockpiling or inventory of a substantial nature.

(4) There shall be no outside appearance of a business use, including, but not limited to, parking, signs or lights.

(5) The business activity may not use any equipment or process which creates noise, vibration, glare, fumes, odors or electrical or electronic interference, including interference with radio or television reception, which is detectable in the neighborhood.

(6) The business activity may not generate any solid waste or sewage discharge, in volume or type, which is not normally associated with residential use in the neighborhood.

(7) The business activity shall be conducted only within the dwelling and may not occupy more than 25% of the habitable floor area.

(8) The business may not involve any illegal activity.

“Nonconforming lot,” a lot the area or dimension of which was lawful prior to the adoption or amendment of a zoning ordinance, but which fails to conform to the requirements of the zoning district in which it is located by reasons of such adoption or amendment.

“Nonconforming structure,” a structure or part of a structure manifestly not designed to comply with the applicable use or extent of use provisions in a zoning ordinance or amendment heretofore or hereafter enacted, where such structure lawfully existed prior to the enactment of such ordinance or amendment or prior to the application of such ordinance or amendment to its location by reason of annexation. Such nonconforming structures include, but are not limited to, nonconforming signs.

“Nonconforming use,” a use, whether of land or of structure, which does not comply with the applicable use provisions in a zoning ordinance or amendment heretofore or hereafter enacted, where such use was lawfully in existence prior to the enactment of such ordinance or amendment, or prior to the application of such ordinance or amendment to its location by reason of annexation.

“Official map,” a map adopted by ordinance pursuant to Article IV.

“Planned residential development,” an area of land, controlled by a landowner, to be developed as a single entity for a number of dwelling units, or combination of residential and nonresidential uses, the development plan for which does not correspond in lot size, bulk, type of dwelling, or use, density, or intensity, lot coverage and required open space to the regulations established in any one district created, from time to time, under the provisions of a municipal zoning ordinance.

“Planning agency,” a planning commission, planning department, or a planning committee of the governing body.

“Plat,” the map or plan of a subdivision or land development, whether preliminary or final.

“Preservation or protection,” when used in connection with natural and historic resources, shall include means to conserve and safeguard these resources from wasteful or destructive use, but shall not be interpreted to authorize the unreasonable restriction of forestry, mining or other lawful uses of natural resources.

“Prime agricultural land,” land used for agricultural purposes that contains soils of the first, second or third class as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture natural resource and conservation services county soil survey.

“Professional consultants,” Persons who provide expert or professional advice, including, but not limited to, architects, attorneys, certified public accountants, engineers, geologists, land surveyors, landscape architects or planners.

“Public grounds,” includes:

(1) parks, playgrounds, trails, paths and other recreational areas and other public areas

(2) sites for schools, sewage treatment, refuse disposal and other publicly owned or operated facilities

(3) publicly owned or operated scenic and historic sites.

“Public hearing,” a formal meeting held pursuant to public notice by the governing body or planning agency, intended to inform and obtain public comment, prior to taking action in accordance with this act.

“Public infrastructure area,” a designated growth area and all or any portion of a future growth area described a county or multimunicipal comprehensive plan where public infrastructure services will be provided and outside of which such public infrastructure services will not be required to be publicly financed.

“Public infrastructure services,” services that are provided to areas with densities of one or more units to the acre, which may include sanitary sewers and facilitates for the collection and treatment of sewage, water lines and facilitates for the pumping and treating of water, parks and open space, streets and sidewalks, public transportation and other services that may be appropriated within a growth area, but shall exclude fire protection and emergency medical services and any other service required to protect the health an safety of residents.

“Public meeting,” a forum held pursuant to notice under 65 Pa. C.S. CH. 7 (Relating to open meetings).

“Public notice,” notice published once each week for two successive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality. Such notice shall state the time and place of the hearing and the particular nature of the matter to be considered at the hearing. The first publication shall not be more than 30 days and the second publication shall not be less than seven days from the date of the hearing.

“Regional planning agency,” a planning agency that is comprised of representatives of more than one county. Regional planning responsibilities shall include providing technical assistance to counties and municipalities, mediating conflicts across county lines and reviewing county comprehensive plans for consistency with one another.

“Renewable energy source,” any method, process or substance whose supply is rejuvenated through natural processes and, subject to those natural processes, remains relatively constant, including, but not limited to, biomass conversion, geothermal energy, solar and wind energy and hydroelectric energy and excluding those sources of energy used in the fission and fusion processes.

“Rural resource area,” an area described in a municipal or multimunicipal plan within which rural resource uses including, but not limited to, agriculture, timbering, mining, quarrying and other extractive industries, forest and game lands and recreation and tourism are encouraged and enhanced, development that is compatible with or supportive of such uses in permitted, and public infrastructure services are not provided except in villages.

“Special exception,” a use permitted in a particular zoning district pursuant to the provisions of Articles VI and IX.

“Specific plan,” a detailed plan for nonresidential development of an area covered by a municipal or multimunicipal comprehensive plan, which when approved and adopted by the participating municipalities through ordinances and agreements supersedes all other applications.

“State Land Use and Growth Management Report,” a comprehensive land use and growth management report to be prepared by the Center for Local Government Services and which shall contain information, data and conclusions regarding growth and development patterns in this Commonwealth and which will offer recommendations to commonwealth agencies for coordination of executive action, regulation and programs.

“Street,” includes street, avenue, boulevard, road, highway, freeway, parkway, lane, alley, viaduct and any other ways used or intended to be used by vehicular traffic or pedestrians whether public or private.

“Structure,” any man-made object having an ascertainable stationary location on or in land or water, whether or not affixed to the land.

“Subdivision,” the division or redivision of a lot, tract or parcel of land by any means into two or more lots, tracts, parcels or other divisions of land including changes in existing lot lines for the purpose, whether immediate or future, of lease, partition by the court for distribution to heirs or devisees, transfer of ownership or building or lot development: Provided, however, That the subdivision by lease of land for agricultural purposes into parcels of more than ten acres, not involving any new street or easement of access or any residential dwelling, shall be exempted.

“Substantially completed,” where, in the judgment of the municipal engineer, at least 90% (based on the cost of the required improvements for which financial security was posted pursuant to section 509) of those improvements required as a condition for final approval have been completed in accordance with the approved plan, so that the project will be able to be used, occupied or operated for its intended use.

“Traditional neighborhood development,” an area of land developed for a compatible mixture of residential units for various income levels and nonresidential commercial and workplace uses, including some structures that provide for a mix of uses within the same building. Residences, shops, offices, workplaces, public buildings, and parks are interwoven within the neighborhood so that all are within relatively close proximity to each other. Traditional neighborhood development is relatively compact, limited in size and oriented toward pedestrian activity. It has an identifiable center and a discernible edge. The center of the neighborhood is in the form of a public park, commons, plaza, square or prominent intersection of two or more major streets. Generally, there is a hierarchy of streets laid out in a rectilinear or grid pattern of interconnecting streets and blocks that provides multiple routes from origins to destinations and are appropriately designed to serve the needs of pedestrians and vehicles equally.

“Transferable development rights,” the attaching of development rights to specified lands which are desired by a municipality to be kept undeveloped, but permitting those rights to be transferred from those lands so that the development potential which they represent may occur on other lands where more intensive development is deemed to be appropriate.

“Variance,” relief granted pursuant to the provisions of Articles VI and IX.

“Village, an unincorporated settlement that is part of a township where residential and mixed use densities of one unit to the acre or more exist or are permitted and commercial, industrial or institutional uses exist or are permitted.

“Water survey,” an inventory of the source, quantity, yield and use of groundwater and surface-water resources within a municipality.

(b) The following words and phrases when used in Articles IX and X-A shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

“Board,” any body granted jurisdiction under a land use ordinance or under this act to render final adjudications.

“Decision,” final adjudication of any board or other body granted jurisdiction under any land use ordinance or this act to do so, either by reason of the grant of exclusive jurisdiction or by reason of appeals from determinations. All decisions shall be appealable to the court of common pleas of the county and judicial district wherein the municipality lies.

“Determination,” final action by an officer, body or agency charged with the administration of any land use ordinance or applications thereunder, except the following:

(1) the governing body.

(2) the zoning hearing board.

(3) the planning agency, only if and to the extent the planning agency is charged with final decision on preliminary or final plans under the subdivision and land development ordinance or planned residential development provisions.

Determinations shall be appealable only to the boards designated as having jurisdiction for such appeal.

“Hearing,” an administrative proceeding conducted by a board pursuant to section 909.1.

“Land use ordinance,” any ordinance or map adopted pursuant to the authority granted in Articles IV, V, VI and VII.

“Report,” any letter, review, memorandum, compilation or similar writing made by any body, board, officer or consultant other than a solicitor to any other body, board, officer or consultant for the purpose of assisting the recipient of such report in the rendering of any decision or determination. All reports shall be deemed recommendatory and advisory only and shall not be binding upon the recipient, board, officer, body or agency, nor shall any appeal lie therefrom. Any report used, received or considered by the body, board, officer or agency rendering a determination or decision shall be made available for inspection to the applicant and all other parties to any proceeding upon request, and copies thereof shall be provided at cost of reproduction.

Table of Contents

  • Article I General Provisions (click here)
  • Article II Planning Agencies (click here)
  • Article III Comprehensive Plan (click here)
  • Article IV Official Map (click here)
  • Article V Subdivision and Land Development (click here)
  • Article V-A Municipal Capital Improvement (click here)
  • Article VI Zoning (click here)
  • Article VII Planned Residential Development (click here)
  • Article VII-A Traditional Neighborhood Development (click here)
  • Article VIII Zoning Challenges; General Provisions (click here)
  • Article VIII-A Joint Municipal Zoning (click here)
  • Article IX Zoning Hearing Board and other Administrative Proceedings (click here)
  • Article X Appeals (click here)
  • Article X-A Appeals to Court (click here)
  • Article XI Intergovernmental Cooperative Planning and Implementation Agreements (click here)
  • Article XI-A Joint Municipal Zoning (click here)
  • Article XII Repeals (click here)


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