PA Legislature Passes Laws of Interest to Landowners and Developers
The Pennsylvania legislature recently passed several laws of interest to landowners and developers. Act 153 concerns “land banks” in the Commonwealth. Acts 154 and 155 amend the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code and Municipalities Authorities Act respectively.
Land banks are created under Act 153 as a tool to return vacant, abandoned, and tax delinquent properties to productive use. Land banks may be created in “land bank jurisdictions” which include municipalities with a population of over 10,000 or multiple municipalities with lesser populations entering into intergovernmental cooperation agreements.
Once established, a land bank has certain powers, including, but not limited to, acquiring, selling, or leasing real property, borrowing funds, collecting rents, issuing licenses and easements, and other powers traditionally associated with land ownership. Although a land bank is a public body, it does not have the power of eminent domain.
Act 153 exempts land bank property, income, and operations from state and local taxation as long as the real property is not leased to a private party continuously for five consecutive years.
As a public body, a land bank is subject to Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act, Right-to-Know Law and Ethics Act.
Amendments to the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code
Act 154 amends the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code which is the statute which confers on municipalities the power to enact zoning and subdivision/land development ordinances. (This statute does not apply to Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.) The changes provide procedural clarification and increased time for review of the fees of municipal consultants.
The time period to challenge a municipality’s professional consulting fee was extended from 45 to 100 days after billing. Similarly, the time period to challenge a municipality’s fee for inspection of improvements was extended from 30 days to 100 days after billing. The time period to request appointment of an arbitrator to dispute consultant expenses was extended from 45 to 100 days.
Act 154 clarifies that the amount of financial security required to secure structural integrity and functioning of public improvements is 15% of the actual cost of dedicated improvements. A dedicated improvement is one which is offered to the municipality for municipal ownership. These typically include roads, utilities, and parkland. The amount of financial security that may be retained by a municipality upon completion of required improvements was changed from 10% of the estimated cost to 10% of the original amount of posted security.
Amendments to the Municipal Authorities Act
Act 155 amends the Municipalities Authorities Act. The changes provide procedural clarification and increased time for review of certain fees.
The time period to challenge fees in connection with the review of plans, construction, inspections, and administrative, legal, and engineering services related to sewer or water system expansion was extended from 20 working days to 60 days after billing. The time period for requesting appointment of an arbitrator to dispute billing was also increased, from 30 to 60 days.
The amount of time an arbitrator may take to render a decision was changed from 60 days of the billing date to 50 days from arbitrator appointment. Act 155 further clarifies that reimbursement or payment must be made in accordance with an arbitrator’s decision within 60 days.