2010 Pennsylvania Land Use and Growth Management Report Released

February 2011Newsletters In the Zone

The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code mandates the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services prepare a comprehensive State Land Use and Growth Management Report every five years. The 2010 report is the first update following the inaugural report in 2005.

Released in January 2011, the 2010 report evaluates contemporary land use issues, significant historic and projected trends and statewide and regional development patterns. It makes a number of recommendations and notes specific opportunities for the Commonwealth to positively impact future growth and development patterns. It is intended to promote a policy approach to land use and growth management, with the hope the recommendations will be used as guidelines and best practices.

Major findings included:

  • Pre-recession development outpaced growth. Prior to the current recession (pre-2008), the principal trend identified in the 2005 Land Use and Growth Management Report was still evident: Pennsylvania was developing but not growing. Land data showed significant increases in developed land, mainly in suburbs and exurbs, at a time when population and the economy showed minimal growth. Pennsylvania is growing slower than the nation, but consistent with the Northeast region.
  • Changing demographic demands. Demographic shifts affect future land use. Pennsylvania’s large proportion of senior citizens will continue to impact land use due to seniors’ less mobile lifestyle, desire for closer-to-home health care and need for smaller, more community-connected housing. With the number of deaths approaching the number of births, Pennsylvania communities will need to attract out-of-state residents to grow.
  • Planning issues vary widely by region. Pennsylvania’s different regions and municipality types are growing at different rates and changing in different ways. Areas to the south and east of the line running from South Central Pennsylvania through the Lehigh Valley up to the Poconos are experiencing more growth and better economic conditions and have a younger population than the north and west.
  • Natural resource management and growth. There are large-scale natural resource issues that will have an impact on land use, including natural gas exploration and well activity related to the Marcellus Shale, Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay Program and energy costs.
  • Inadequate capacity to address growing needs. Governments’ fiscal capacity to deal with land use and other challenges is shrinking. Various financial strains are forcing deferred maintenance of local infrastructure and cuts in service. Fiscal stress is becoming more of a reality for all levels of government, not just inner cities and boroughs. In 2008, 44.5 percent of Pennsylvania municipalities were operating at a deficit.
For more information, please contact Robert W. Gundlach, Jr. at 215.918.3636 or [email protected].