The Comprehensive Plan
Local government is the backbone of Pennsylvania’s governmental structure and communities have the responsibility to plan and take charge rather than do nothing. In Manheim Township, all land use decisions begin with a plan, whether it is an idea for a development project, a vision for the community, its growth and development and/or other goals that are established and adopted by the Board of Commissioners.
Manheim Township has recognized for many years that no one person, agency or group controls the development process. The Township has established proper ordinances implementing its plans, and formal plan submission and review procedures based on its plans that provide a framework for change. Without a plan and framework, the future is less certain and the current development process is reactive versus proactive.
Early in the 20th century, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., renowned community planner in Pennsylvania, observed that lack of planning results in a “. . . drifting hand-to-mouth policy of doing only what must be done today.” This practice puts planning in the hands of others. Instead, everyone that has a part in their community should be included to let officials know their preference whether to plan or not to plan.
Today, Manheim Township's comprehensive plan means more than in the past. State agencies are required to consider and rely upon our local plan and zoning ordinance to ensure that they are generally consistent. Without a plan, state agencies, developers, elected officials and landowners have nothing to guide them in the decision-making process.
What Is a Comprehensive Plan?
Under the updated Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), four types of comprehensive plans are defined: municipal, multi-municipal, county and specific plans. A municipal plan covers a single municipality. A multi-municipal plan is developed and adopted by any number of contiguous municipalities and includes any joint municipal plan previously authorized by the MPC. A specific plan is a detailed plan for nonresidential development covered by a municipal or multi-municipal comprehensive plan.
The MPC defines a “County Comprehensive Plan” as “a land use and growth management plan prepared by the county planning commission and adopted by the county commissioners which establishes broad goals and criteria for municipalities to use in preparation of their comprehensive plan and land use regulation.” A multi-municipal plan is defined as “a plan developed by any number of contiguous municipalities, including a joint municipal plan as authorized by this act.” A “Specific Plan” is a means to expedite development approval by giving municipalities the authority to adopt a plan for the systematic implementation of a generally consistent comprehensive plan for any nonresidential area.
All comprehensive plans are subject to the following four common criteria: 1) contain basic plan elements set forth in Section 301(a); 2) contain a plan for the reliable supply of water, considering current and future water resources availability; 3) be reviewed every 10 years, and 4) “…identify those areas where growth and development will occur so that a full range of public infrastructure, including sewer, water, highways, police and fire protection, public schools, parks open space and other services can be adequately planned and provided as needed to accommodate growth.”
The MPC encourages municipalities to adopt municipal or multi-municipal comprehensive plans that are generally consistent with the respective county comprehensive plan. In fact, municipal plans adopted after February 21, 1989, are to be generally consistent with the adopted county comprehensive plan. To achieve general consistency, two or more contiguous municipalities can request a county to amend its plan. The county must accept the requested amendment unless good cause is given to refuse the request.
Manheim Township's Comprehensive Plan
Under the updated MPC, Manheim Township has adopted a municipal comprehensive plan. The Township has also participated in the Lancaster County planning activities and it has participated in a sub-county multi-municipal plan entitled "Growing Together" that involved several municipalities of the Lancaster Inter-Municipal Committee that surround the City of Lancaster. These three policy documents establish the comprehensive planning framework for Manheim Township.
After the Comp Plan
Following the adoption of the Manheim Township Comprehensive Plan and any implementing codes and ordinances (Zoning and Subdivision Land Development Ordinances), the Township's planning process will continue. A community like Manheim Township is seldom a stagnant place; some type of change is almost always occurring. With this in mind, planning is an organized process of dealing with change on a continuous basis. Therefore, all change must be examined in the planning cycle to see what effects it may have upon the community and ordinances must be adjusted methodically and periodically.
This process of planning...reviewing...and planning again is known as the continuing planning cycle. The MPC envisions an ongoing process. MPC Section 303 requires that where municipal comprehensive plans are adopted: “...any subsequent proposed action of the governing body, its departments, agencies and appointed authorities shall be submitted to the planning agency for its recommendations...” In another similar provision, Section 209.1 mandates that the planning agency “review the zoning ordinance, subdivision and land development ordinance, official map, provisions for planned residential development, and such other ordinances and regulations governing the development of land no less frequently than it reviews the comprehensive plan.”
This cycle of planning, review and monitoring, and then planning again has been going on in Manheim Township since the 1950's and will continue into the future.