COVID-19: Municipal Compliance with Pennsylvania’s MPC and UCC
The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) contains specific time frames and procedures for reviewing applications, conducting hearings and adopting Ordinances that relate to zoning, land development and subdivision issues. The Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code also contains time frames relating to review and processing of construction related approvals and permits. Municipalities are struggling to meet these time frames and procedures during this time when public meetings have been cancelled, municipal buildings have been closed to the public and staff are working from home.
The Pennsylvania Legislature is currently considering HB 1564 which would address the time frames referenced above. HB1564 has passed the House, but is currently bottled up in the Local Government Committee of the Senate.
Under the proposed legislation, with regard to existing and pending approvals, the Bill states that if the final day for a municipality to approve or deny any application, plat, plan or other submission for an “approval” falls during a disaster or emergency dangerous to health or safety as described above, the following shall apply:
(1) The number of days provided to satisfy any such statutory time limits are suspended or tolled as of the date of the disaster or emergency declaration and resume on the date following the termination of the disaster or emergency.
(2) The municipality must notify in writing each applicant of the time extension and the right to a request as provided in paragraph 3. However, failure to receive the notice does not affect the tolling.
(3) The Applicant may request such meetings, hearings or proceedings as may be required by law governing the application, plat, plan or submission during the period of the disaster or emergency. It is at the discretion of the municipality to proceed with the request. If the municipality agrees to proceed with the request, the applicant, municipality and all other parties receiving actual notice of the proceedings waive any challenge to the proceedings under 42 Pa. C.S. 5571.1 (relating to appeals from ordinances, resolutions, maps, etc.) or any other provision of law.
(4) For an approval granted by a municipality and in effect after the beginning of the disaster or emergency declaration, the running period of the approval shall be automatically suspended during the disaster or emergency and shall resume after the final termination of the disaster or emergency.
This proposed legislation goes a long way to prevent municipalities from suffering deemed approvals under the MPC and the Construction Code. However, there are a few items left unaddressed such as what happens when the application or plan only had a few days remaining prior to the Governor’s Declaration? When that time is added after the Declaration is lifted, there may not be enough time to meet the advertising requirements under the MPC and the municipality could still be faced with a possible deemed approval.
Our Firm has contacted local legislative members and requested that they consider amending the Bill to address outstanding issues such as these. In the meantime, on behalf of the municipalities we represent, we have requested that MPC applicants provide a written extension that can be terminated by either party upon written notice requiring action by the municipality within 60 days of the date of termination. This provides flexibility for both parties and ensures that the municipality will not suffer a deemed approval.
We encourage municipalities to contact local legislative members to advocate for the passage of HB 1564.
This article is not legal advice and is provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.