Main St. Dev. Group, Inc. v. Tinicum Twp. Bd. of Supervisors, 19 A.3d 21 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2011).
Overlay districts can be used to preserve agriculture but cannot be used to prohibit reasonable development altogether.
The Township’s Zoning Ordinance included an agricultural soils overlay district that limited development of certain farmland and agricultural soils throughout the Township to 25% regardless of the size, location, or underlying zoning of the particular tract of land. Between the underlying zoning districts and the overlay, the Zoning Ordinance limited approximately 96% of the Township to farmland and agricultural uses. The Main Street Development Group, Inc. challenged the ordinance as overly broad.
The Commonwealth Court agreed that the overlay was overly broad because the Court interpreted the MPC to require a balancing between agriculture and development. While the MPC mandates that zoning ordinances protect agricultural lands, it also requires municipalities to facilitate reasonable development. Thus, the Court held that overlay districts must supplement, not supplant, the underlying zoning district. Here, the overlay was unreasonable as applied to at least four zoning districts because it prohibited reasonable development therein.
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