Local Governments Get Their Zoning Powers From the State

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Act 13 is a terrible law overall, but the one part of it I didn’t think was terrible was the state’s interference in local zoning matters. Let’s hope this is just rhetoric from Tracy Carluccio, because the idea that there’s some inherent “right” to local zoning makes no sense:

“The gas industry tried to take over every inch of every municipality in Pennsylvania for drilling, regardless of the zoning rights of local governments and the residents they represent. The industry and their backers in Harrisburg overreached when they thought they could literally takeover the state, turning it into one big drilling and gas infrastructure site.

This is wrong because municipalities’ zoning powers are granted and shaped by the state. There is no federalism for municipal government, and definitely not a municipal nullification power like the CELDF folks wish existed. Think about what that would mean!

Everything municipal governments can and can’t do is basically outlined by the state, from the taxes they can use to the regulations they can adopt. And that’s great. PA’s got over 2500 municipal governments. That in itself is nuts, but it would be even crazier to allow everybody to just do their own thing.

Now that this is struck down, the next best option is to hand county governments the power to zone where in their borders drilling can happen. This would advance the goal of regional land use planning in general, and would be a good compromise on the fracking issue that gives everybody some options without totally blocking drilling. Every county’s got some open space further from where most people live.

This entry was posted in Environment, Land Use.

3 Responses to Local Governments Get Their Zoning Powers From the State

  1. Sean Kitchen says:

    Yeah I know the municipal planning code from college… I really want to disagree but I can’t. I took a bunch of planning classes at Kutztown and you are correct on the point about the state granting power.

    On a planning end of things, the buffers that were set in place was the worst part of the law, especially from an environmental point of view

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Not saying I’m happy about how gas companies aren’t sufficiently regulated at the state level. But that’s the appropriate venue for these fights. The thing that drives me nuts about this is that, except for this one single issue, there is *nothing* to like about strong hyper-local zoning authority from a progressive standpoint. Zoning has been and continues to be one of the most powerful segregationist tools, and one of the worst ways that people force a carbon-intensive built environment. The state needs to give regional planners more power, not fortify municipal zoning authority.

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