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Urban Growth Boundary

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Urban growth boundaries are used to demarcate where government intends to encourage and discourage land development. This guide provides links to resources about urban growth boundaries, as well as examples from Pennsylvania municipalities.

Governments use urban growth boundaries (UGBs) to demarcate where they intend to encourage and discourage land development through their public-infrastructure investments, land-use regulations, land acquisitions, and other actions. Within the urban growth boundary—called the designated growth area or urban growth area—government policy encourages relatively high-density development. Outside the UGB, government policy encourages conservation of agricultural lands and working forests and the protection of natural areas. UGBs are designed to accommodate growth for a specific period of time (often 20–30 years) and can be implemented on a local or regional scale.

Below are links to resources that provide more detailed information about UGBs, as well as examples from Pennsylvania municipalities.

Information About UGBs

Urban Growth Boundaries Overview” (South Carolina Department of Environmental Control)

Explains the basics of UGBs, answers common questions, and includes a model UGB ordinance.

Urban Growth Boundaries” (PlannersWeb)

Analyzes the effect of a regional UGB network in the Portland metro area that has been in place since the 1970s.

Building Invisible Walls: Urban Growth Boundaries” (PlannersWeb)

Outlines key elements in effectively planning for and implementing UGBs and includes several examples of UGB use from across the United States.

Do Urban Growth Boundaries Work?” (American Society of Landscape Architects)

Studies UGBs in three different cities to understand what makes them effective.

Pennsylvania Examples

Lancaster County Comprehensive Plan

The section “Roadmap to the Future” includes maps and descriptions of urban growth areas.

Pequea Township Comprehensive Plan Amendment

Amendment to the township's comprehensive plan that includes an expansion of its urban growth boundary.

Hanover Urbanized Area Boundary Map

Map of UGB with both original and expanded boundary lines.

Williamsport Designated Growth Area Map

Map of current and potential future designated growth areas in Williamsport.

West Manchester Township Zoning Map

Map shows how various zoning districts interface with a UGB.

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Featured Library Items

Map of UGB—with original and expanded boundaries—in Adams County (PA).
Amendment to the township's comprehensive plan that includes an expansion of its urban growth boundary.
Comprehensive plan for Lancaster County, PA, including map of urban growth areas.
Zoning map for West Manchester Township (York County, Pennsylvania) that includes various zoning districts and an urban growth boundary.
Map of designated growth areas and future growth areas in Williamsport, PA. Part of Lycoming County's comprehensive plan.
Urban growth boundaries are used to demarcate where government intends to encourage and discourage land development. This guide provides links to resources about urban growth boundaries, as well as examples from Pennsylvania municipalities. (Print version of ConservationTools.org guide)
Community visioning is a planning tool that empowers people to express a vision for the future of their community; ideally, this vision guides land-use decisions and regulations. (Print version of ConservationTools.org guide)

Acknowledgements

The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association produced this guide with support from the William Penn Foundation, the Colcom Foundation, and the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, Environmental Stewardship Fund, under the administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.

Disclaimer

Nothing contained in this or any other document available at ConservationTools.org is intended to be relied upon as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship. The material presented is generally provided in the context of Pennsylvania law and, depending on the subject, may have more or less applicability elsewhere. There is no guarantee that it is up to date or error free.

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