State Supreme Court Requires Hazard Ordinances for Townships with Commercial Airports
In light of a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision, townships with commercial airports will have to make sure their zoning ordinances comply with state requirements.
The act’s primary purpose is to prevent types of land use near airports that could create safety hazards. To do that the statute calls for the adoption of airport zoning ordinances that regulate land use and place height restrictions on buildings close to a commercial airport. Only about 20 percent of the municipalities with commercial airports are reported to have airport hazard zoning that satisfies the act’s requirements.
“General rule. – In order to prevent the creation or establishment of airport hazards, every municipality having an airport hazard area within its territorial limits shall adopt, administer, and enforce, under the police power and in the manner and upon the conditions prescribed in this subchapter and in applicable zoning law unless clearly inconsistent with this subchapter, airport zoning regulations for such airport hazard area. The regulations may divide the area into zones and, within the zones, specify the land uses permitted and regulate and restrict the height to which structures may be erected or objects of natural growth may be allowed to grow.”
“A municipality which includes an airport hazard area created by the location of a public airport is required to adopt, administer, and enforce zoning ordinances pursuant to this subchapter if the existing comprehensive zoning ordinance for the municipality does not provide for the land uses permitted and regulate and restrict
As a result of this decision, townships with commercial airports must now examine their ordinances for compliance with the act and revise them as necessary. The court was specific in finding that an ordinance that merely “dictates criteria that are required for a property to be operated as an airport” does not comply with the Airport Zoning Act. Instead, such ordinances should specify the land uses permitted in the hazard area beyond the airport’s physical boundaries.
In short, South Franklin Township is required, by law, to pass an ordinance that regulates the height of structures (including vegetation) which may occur at certain elevations in the general area of the Washington County Airport.
Areas with ground or tree obstruction will not be permitted to have buildings or trees on the land. Trees must be cut or removed at the homeowners expense.