Citizenry Tools

Water Permitting

Geology and Groundwater

Ordinances and Easements

Just for Kids

Tools for Successful Citizenry

The following are publications provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Economical Development (DCED)

Citizen's Guide to Pennsylvania Local Government- This guide explains the local government structure in Pennsylvania, their functions and services, the election process, and the various local taxes.

Local Land Use Controls in Pennsylvania- This advisory is an inventory and a basic summary of what tools are available to guide growth. It reports on fundamental local planning and land use controls in Pennsylvania. This publication is a summary of what exists now and what can be done under the current Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC). Related ordinances and regulations are also discussed since many development activities usually require other non-land use regulatory approvals.

Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code and Corrections- Act of 1968, P.L.805, No.247 as reenacted and amended, and October 2005 corrections to Municipalities Planning Code ? 18th Edition ? February 2005

The Comprehensive Plan in Pennsylvania- The Pennsylvania planning tool chest has been expanded to specifically authorize municipalities to designate growth areas, rural resource areas and then transfer development rights between or among municipalities by cooperative planning and implementation agreements. Four acts significantly impact the way state agencies, county and local governments do planning. Act 32 requests state agencies to look for and consider locations in downtown areas based on guidelines developed by the Department of General Services. Acts 67 and 68 require all state agencies to consider and rely upon comprehensive plans, including implementing zoning ordinances, when making infrastructure decisions that impact land use. Act 127 allows a municipality to better manage validity challenges that allege simultaneous substantive constitutional challenges.

Subdivision and Land Development in Pennsylvania- The subdivision and land development ordinance is the most commonly used development control mechanism in Pennsylvania. It is the most basic of land use regulations. The major purposes of subdivision and land development regulations are: to provide adequate sites for development and public use, to maintain reasonable and acceptable design standards and to coordinate public improvements with private development interests. They offer the municipality a degree of protection against unwise, poorly planned development.

ZoningA method a community may use to regulate the use of land and structures. It is initiated by the adoption of a zoning ordinance designed to protect the public health, safety, and welfare and to guide growth. The zoning ordinance is composed of two parts ? the text and the zoning map.

The Zoning Hearing Board- Any municipality enacting a zoning ordinance must also create a zoning hearing board (ZHB). The primary purpose of such a board is to help assure fair and equitable application and administration of the zoning ordinance by hearing appeals on the zoning officer?s determinations and by granting relief from the literal enforcement of the ordinance in certain hardship situations. Its powers are to some extent judicial in nature.

The Zoning Officer- The broad duty of the zoning officer is to administer the zoning ordinance consistent with the zoning purposes detailed in the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) 604 (Zoning Purposes).

The Planning Commission in Pennsylvania- A planning commission is a local organization that can assist local governments in implementing change in future growth patterns. Its job is to advise locally elected officials on planning and community development matters.

Special Conditions, Conditional Uses, and Variances- Practically every municipality has a variance procedure in its zoning ordinance. Most zoning ordinances contain special exception provisions or else allow conditional uses. Some zoning ordinances utilize both special exceptions and conditional uses. This booklet attempts to explain these mysterious terms and how these provisions should be used.

Open Meetings/Open Records- Sunshine Laws help curtail misbehavior by government officials, educate the public through greater press coverage of government activities and provide public scrutiny to governmental decision-making. Public officials also are able to gain a better understanding of public opinion on the issues. The Pennsylvania Sunshine Act requires all public agencies to take all official actions and conduct all deliberations leading up to official actions at public meetings. The Act covers all such actions by municipal governing bodies, committees of these governing bodies and municipal boards and commissions. Official actions include making recommendations, establishment of policy, decisions on agency business and votes taken on any motion, resolution, ordinance, rule, regulation, proposal, report or order.

Planning for Agriculture- Although agriculture?s value to the Commonwealth has remained constant over the decades, the Commonwealth itself has seen significant change. Two recent trends in Pennsylvania have had a significant impact on the economy and the agricultural sector?s role in the economy: shifting land use patterns and increasing public concern for the environment.

Technical Information on Floodplain Management- To participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a municipality must enact a code or ordinance, which at a minimum, meets the floodplain management requirements established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This means that a participating municipality must regulate all construction and development within those areas of the community identified by FEMA as being flood-prone. To accomplish this, a municipality must issue a building permit before any construction or development takes place. This ensures that the municipality has the opportunity to review all proposed activities for compliance with any applicable floodplain management regulations. While it may sound rather simple and straightforward, it is not always an easy matter to distinguish between those activities that require a permit and those that do not. The following information is provided to help municipalities become more confident in making this determination.

Growing Smarter Toolkit- Grant money or technical assistance can stretch your tax dollars and help small budgets go the distance. But, you must be patient and realistic about the funding and assistance that is available, just as you must be patient and realistic about achieving your community visions and goals. Each year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania makes available millions of dollars in financial assistance. This does not even account for the millions of dollars in human resources devoted to the technical assistance programs that support grant funding, education and training. This catalog should help you find and access those resources so your community can benefit from them. This catalog lists the current technical and financial assistance programs available in Pennsylvania.


Firewood - Moving firewood from one location to another is one of the leading causes of the introduction and spread of exotic insects and deseases.  One of the most common exotic insects that is transported by firewood is the Emerald Ash Borer. The adult beetles nibble on ash foliage but cause little damage. The larvae (the immature stage) feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients.