Eschewing zoning won't result in an anything goes property development free-for-all.
There are still regulations that must be followed and permits, including accompanying fees, that must be obtained.
Farmington Township's bid to secede from county zoning is stalled while the Warren County Commissioners mull whether to approve the effort or not. Meanwhile, Farmington Township Supervisor Ed Beardsley has said the township plans to remain unzoned after leaving county zoning, rather than instituting a township level-zoning plan. Should the commissioners approve the bid and Farmington does not institute independent zoning, there are still rules to follow when developing property.
"There seems to be a lot of confusion," Warren County Planning Director Dan Glotz said.
Development must also adhere to the federal Clean Water Act governing, amongst other things, run-off and waste-water discharge.
At the state level, municipalities must adhere to a number of regulations under Title 25 of The Pennsylvania Code including regulations on water discharge, erosion and sediment control and water quality standards.
Unzoned municipalities must follow state Department of Environmental Protection and federal Environmental Protection Agency rules on development. Depending on the location and type of work being undertaken on a property, numerous regulations could come into play under the perview of the two agencies. Permitting for work could also be required.
At the county level, the municipality would remain covered under the county stormwater plan, which accounts for some of these requirements. The municipality would still have to remain compliant with the plan.
Construction work within the municipality must adhere to the rules of the Uniform Construction Code under the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act. The extensive code, according to Glotz, "covers everything from footer to roof peaks" of building and alteration work. Glotz noted there are a handful of things excluded from the code, such as agricultural buildings and accessory dwellings under 1,000 square feet. Glotz said most municipalities contract an independent expert to handle compliance with code regulations.
Municipalities are also required to have a flood plain ordinance in place. Municipalities currently governed by the county zoning ordinance fall under the county flood plain ordinance, which is included in the zoning ordinance. If Farmington secedes from the county zoning ordinance, they would no longer have a flood plain ordinance either.
"With the flood plain ordinance, the ordinance is included in the zoning ordinance," Glotz noted. "So they would be required to adopt and administer their own."
Glotz added sewage permitting is monitored is monitored by the county for municipalities under the zoning ordinance.
"Part of the zoning permit process is we make sure the sewage permitting is in place," Glotz said. "So we're watching that for the township."
Permits have been another issue of confusion, Glotz said.
"They are still applicable," Glotz said. "The $900 is still applicable. It's a building permitting fee through the (uniform) construction code. Our fee for zoning permits is $25. They won't have to pay zoning."