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Municipalities in Pennsylvania are taking a look at zoning ordinances to make sure they comply with state law. However, cities are also looking at new and trending ways land is being used. The Municipalities Planning Code, 53 P.S. Section 10101 et seq., (the MPC) is used to govern how cities enact zoning ordinances. The MPC authorizes zoning ordinances to permit, prohibit, erect, construction repair, size of land, maintenance, alteration, razing, along with regulating and determining the use of the land. These can be changed at the state and local legislative levels and contested in courts.

So, what has changed over the past year?

Agricultural Operations

Current statutes do not limit any municipality’s ability to oversee, agritainment, agritourism, and agribusiness. These are defined as farm-related activities conducted on land zoned for agriculture that is open to the public for recreational, educational, and entertainment purposes. With this, it’s left up to local government officials to allow or prohibit the use of the property for these purposes.

There’s been a rise in these uses in recent years and cities should take a closer look at how these are permitted. For instance, are there any regulations that control noise, traffic, parking, the use of agricultural equipment by the public, hours of operations, and more.

No-Impact Home-Based Businesses

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our country and in 2002 the MPC was amended to require all local zoning ordinances permit, no-impact home-based businesses in every residential district. What is a no-impact home-based business? It’s defined as a business or commercial activity conducted as an accessory use that is secondary to the land being used as a residential dwelling.

No impact means, no display or sale of retail goods, no signs or parking, can’t generate solid waste or sewage discharge outside normal residential volume, and business can only be conducted within the dwelling and 25% of the habitable floor plan.

Civil vs Criminal

Over 30 years ago, any violations of the MPC were considered criminal in nature. Imprisonment was an option for municipalities for violations and convictions. However, over time attempting to enforce zoning ordinances in a criminal nature came with hurdles like criminal proof of burden standards and a defendant’s right against incriminating themselves. Even though some parts of the enforcement provisions have changed, there are still cities that try to impose criminal penalties for violations.

Land use types and development patterns continue to change and evolve over time due to the adoption of the MPC and alterations of hundreds of local zoning ordinances. While some of the changes continue to be reviewed at the State level, it’s important to note that many legislative solutions are made at the local level.

It’s important to be aware of your specific municipal ordinances in your city and should consider hiring an experienced attorney to examine their city’s zoning ordinances to ensure you are in compliance with regulations. At Hoegen & Associates, P.C., we can help you with this, just give us a call at to set up a consultation.