Pennsylvania municipalities would be able to jointly formulate plans designed to control sprawling development under a bill approved in March by a House of Representatives committee.
The bill, combined with another measure approved by the House Local Government Committee, would offer tools that municipalities could use on a voluntary basis.
“If we want municipalities to plan and work together, we have to give them incentives,” said Rep. David J. Steil, R-Bucks, the sponsor of the bills.
The legislation encourages municipalities to work together to craft plans for land usage, including where to allow development and what type to permit. The bill passed would allow communities to establish “growth boundaries” by limiting the places where municipal services would be available.
The bills have been supported generally by lawmakers from areas with booming suburban communities, where broader plans are seen as valuable in controlling so-called sprawl. Builders groups and lawmakers from rural areas, where development can increase tax revenues, have tried to temper some of the language in the bills.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, pushed a half-dozen amendments during the committee meeting, seeking to do away with parts of the bill. His proposals were supported by the Pennsylvania Builders Association, which sought to do away with parts of the bill that supporters said were incentives needed for municipalities. The only Metcalfe amendments that passed said projects would not have to receive approval from more than one municipality.
Metcalfe withdrew a number of other proposals after several of his amendments were defeated, but said he was likely to raise some issues when the bill reaches the House floor for a final vote. Chief among them would be the elimination of “growth boundaries” and a proposal to allow municipalities to drop out of planning groups.
Also, Steil dropped a provision that would have allowed local governments to delay developers from building their projects for as long as five years while roads and other infrastructure were put in place. That idea had come under criticism from builders.
Legislation approved by the Senate in December would allow municipalities that plan jointly to be exempt from legal challenges if a particular land use is not included in a community but can be found within a region.
That bill’s sponsor, Sen. James Gerlach, R-Chester, also withdrew the so-called “concurrency” provision, which would have allowed local governments to delay projects for as long as five years so that infrastructure improvements could be completed.