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Official Map

A municipality may express an interest in acquiring specific land (or easements thereon) for trails, streets, parks, open space networks and other public purposes by establishing an “official map” that “reserves” this land. If a landowner seeks to develop reserved land, the municipality has a year to pursue acquisition of the land from the owner before the owner may freely build or subdivide.

Introduction

What is an Official Map?

An official map shows the locations of planned future public lands and facilities such as streets, trails, parks and open space. The official map expresses a municipality’s interest in acquiring these lands for public purposes sometime in the future and notifies developers and property owners of this interest. Official maps may be used by townships, boroughs, cities, and counties. An official map is not a municipal base map, existing or future land use map, a zoning map, or any map in a comprehensive plan, though these can be used to help identify areas for the official map ordinance. Section 107(b) of the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) defines an official map as a “land use ordinance” with the map as the primary component of an official map ordinance. If a landowner seeks to build on or subdivide land noted on the official map, the municipality has up to a year to acquire the land from the owner before the owner may freely build or subdivide.

What are the Benefits?

  • The official map can help focus limited financial resources on projects that meet and advance community goals.
  • The official map helps municipalities make improvements such as connecting and improving the local street network, intersection improvements, protecting important natural areas, and providing more green space, recreation facilities, trails, and sidewalks.
  • The official map saves time and money by informing property owners and developers of municipal goals and intentions in advance of development plans being made.
  • The official map is an effective negotiation tool for municipalities, helping to ensure that development is compatible with and supportive of public goals.
  • The official map supports other land use management tools such as Growing Greener: Conservation by Design and Transfer of Development Rights.
  • The official map addresses public land and easement acquisition needs that generally can’t be dealt with solely through zoning and subdivision and land development ordinances. • The official map gives municipalities a competitive advantage in securing grants.

 

Use in Pennsylvania

Sixty-four or more Pennsylvania municipalities and one county have adopted official maps as of early 2011. These municipalities are located in 15 counties. The greatest concentration is found in eastern and southcentral Pennsylvania, but the official map is also used in Centre, Allegheny, Butler and Erie Counties. An inventory that describes the focus (transportation, trails, parks, etc.) of each map can be found in Appendix A of “The Official Map: A Handbook for Preserving and Providing Public Lands and Facilities.” Most local government officials interviewed for this guide found the official map to be a worthwhile and effective means of securing the areas and improvements included on the map.

THIS SITE IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION -- COMPLETION EXPECTED IN OCTOBER 2011

THE PENNSYLVANIA LAND TRUST ASSOCIATION PARTNERED WITH DCNR, PENNDOT AND DCED TO ADAPT AND EXPAND A DRAFT OF THIS PENDING GUIDE INTO THE PUBLICATION (NOW AVAILABLE IN PDF) ENTITLED "THE OFFICIAL MAP: A HANDBOOK FOR PRESERVING AND PROVIDING PUBLIC LANDS & FACILITIES." PALTA ENCOURAGES EVERYONE TO DOWNLOAD AND USE THIS HANDBOOK.

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(print edition of ConservationTools.org guide) The official map is a powerful planning tool for ensuring that land will be available where it is needed for roads, trails, parks, riparian buffers and other potential public infrastructure. The official map is authorized by the Pennsylvania Municipal…
Proactive planning measures must be considered if municipalities are to ensure the preservation of important community resources. The official map is a valuable but underused planning tool that few municipalities have considered as an option to address land use issues. The Chester County Planning …
Official map and official map ordinance for Bushkill Township, which is located along the Kittatinny Ridge in Northampton County.
This report on fundamental local planning and land use controls in Pennsylvania summarizes what exists now and what can be done under the current Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC). It also briefly explains how to develop an official map in your municipality.
Article IV of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, which authorizes municipal use of the official map
Official Map for Upper Bern Township, which is located along the Kittatinny Ridge in Berks County.
A one-page summary of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code provisions concerning the official map.
Official map and the ordinance that enacted and incorporated the official map into Exeter Township’s zoning laws.
The ordinance that established the official map for Shrewsbury Township, York County.
Official Map of College Township in Centre County and an information sheet on answers to the most frequently asked questions concerning official maps.
An overview of official maps.
Official map and official map ordinance for East Bradford Township, which is in Chester County.
Official map and official map ordinance for Chestnuthill Township, which is in Monroe County.
Official map and official map ordinance for Uwchlan Township, which is in Chester County.

Acknowledgements

The first edition of this guide was authored by Frone Crawford, Esq., Andy Loza, David Albright and Jason Smith and edited by Andy Loza. Nicole Faraguna managed the project. The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association (PALTA) completed this edition in late 2010 with support from the William Penn Foundation and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Bureau of Recreation and Conservation “Growing Greener” Program.

PALTA and DCNR then formed a partnership with PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to develop a more expansive guide, the end result being the publication of “The Official Map: A Handbook for Preserving and Providing Public Lands and Facilities” in June 2011. Also joining in the collaboration were the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, Chester and York County Planning Commissions, Brandywine Conservancy, and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association. Representatives from these organizations reviewed and commented on drafts of the publication. The Handbook may be downloaded from the ConservationTools.org library.

The guide presented here contains much of the same content as the Handbook but with various edits and additional content including coverage of the intersection of conservation, the municipal codes, eminent domain and official map reservations.

Disclaimer

Nothing contained in this or any other document available at ConservationTools.org is intended to be relied upon as legal advice. The authors disclaim any attorney-client relationship with anyone to whom this document is furnished. Nothing contained in this document is intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to any person any transaction or matter addressed in this document.
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