Can the Development of Open Space in Pennsylvania Be Stopped Before It Starts? Yes, It Can.

PennFuture’s webinar walks PA residents through the intricacies of the municipal land development process and how to interact with local officials to protect the environment for future generations.
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It happens all too frequently. With little to no notice, you become aware that an open tract of land within your municipality will be developed, or maybe construction has already started.
Is there anything you can do?

Join PennFuture on Wednesday evening as the not-for-profit introduces its latest resource: Public Participation, Public Power: A Community Guide to Local Land Use Decision-Making in Pennsylvania.

“When a significant land development proposal comes to town — a massive distribution center, a sprawling resort, a shopping center — locals are left wondering how it will impact their neighborhoods and the environment, and if there is anything they can do,” said Brigitte Meyer, PennFuture’s staff attorney and lead author of the community guidebook. “This guidebook allows for everyone to better understand the different local entities that are responsible for making land use decisions, the types of decisions that they make, and the processes and legal requirements that govern those decisions.”

The program reviews a wide array of topics related to land development including:

Explanation of the state and local laws that control land use decision-making and why that decision-making is based in those laws, not public opinion;

Advice on how to find and read local land use ordinances;

Descriptions of the various types of land use decisions that local governments make, the different local bodies that make them, and the processes and legal standards governing them;

Tips on effectively participating in local land use decision-making, and how to participate as a party in local hearings, including advice on presenting evidence, cross-examining witnesses, and arguing your position;

Advice on how to advocate for changes to existing land use ordinances; and more.

“This is a statewide tool that can be used anywhere,” said Anna Solberg, Pocono Region Field Coordinator for Penn Future. “The goal is just to get it to as many people as possible.”

READ: The Farm Bill: Critical to Open Space Preservation in Bucks County

Solberg explained that having ordinances in place prior to a municipality approving the development of land is important.

“Not all development is bad, but we want to make sure that it’s done well, that it’s not impacting our high-quality streams, that it’s not going to contribute to different clearing of trees where there shouldn’t be and also people dealing with things like noise pollution and air pollution where there might be a better location for some of these [new developments] to go,” Solberg said.

As the Pocono Region field coordinator for PennFuture, Solberg and her colleagues have fought against the proliferation of large warehouses in the area. The group recently prevented the development of a project in Coolbaugh Township, marking a major win for the environment and residents of this Monroe County municipality.

To learn more about PennFuture’s Community Guide to Local Land Use Decision-Making in Pennsylvania, guests are asked to register to attend the Wednesday event that will begin at 6 p.m.

Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (“PennFuture”) is a member-supported, statewide environmental advocacy nonprofit and watchdog fighting against potential threats to Pennsylvania’s clean air, pure water, and healthy climate. Since 1998, PennFuture has combined legislative advocacy, educational outreach, civic engagement, and legal action at the local, state, and federal levels for just and equitable environmental outcomes that improve the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians.

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Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Reporter. An avid collector of all things vintage, she resides in the Philadelphia area.

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