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Lawrence County, PA Permit Overview

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The land development process in Pennsylvania is a multi-step procedure. Our municipalities, the county, state agencies and federal agencies may all play a role, as various layers of permits and approvals are needed. This guide provides a brief description of some of the local, state and federal permits and approvals that may be required for a given land development proposal.

This guide may not necessarily be a comprehensive list of every permit or approval that is required for every land development (earth-moving) project across the County nor are all of the permits or approvals listed and described in this guide required for every project. This document should be used as a reference guide only as you feel your way through the land development process. You should consult with the applicable local, state and federal agencies to determine what permits and approvals are necessary for a given project.

Local Approvals and Permits

I. Land Development Plan

  1. Sketch Plan – Informal plan submitted by developer to municipality
  2. Preliminary Plan – Formal review commences once a Preliminary Plan is submitted.  Plan must set forth elements of the land development as set forth by the Municipality’s Subdivision & Land Development Ordinance (SALDO).
  3. Final Plan – Submitted by the Developer once improvements are completed.

II. Zoning Approvals

  1. Zoning Variances – May be needed if project deviates from existing standards and requirement of zoning ordinance.
  2. Conditional Use Approvals – Project may be of a generally accepted use but could require an approval by the municipality.
  3. Special Exceptions – Similar to Conditional Use but the Zoning Hearing Board hears the request.
  4. Rezoning – If the land is not zoned for development, developer may file a request to have the property rezoned.

III. Stormwater Discharge Management Plan Approval

All projects involving earth moving must be approved by the DEP.  If project involves more than one acre, a NPDES Permit must be issued by the DEP. 

IV. Sewage (Act 537) Approvals

When a new land development project is proposed for the municipality, the municipality must modify its Act 537 Plan to meet the additional sewage disposal needs of the new development.  The municipality then submits the modification to DEP for review and approval.

V. Building Permits

Applications for building permits are submitted after Final Plan approval.

VI. Certificate of Occupancy

Document issued by municipality certifying a building's compliance with applicable building codes and other laws, and indicating it to be in a condition suitable for occupancy.

State Approvals and Permits

I. NPDES Permit for Stormwater Management

All construction activities disturbing greater than one acre of land must obtain this permit from the DEP by submitting an Erosion and Sedimentation (E&S) Control Plan designed to control runoff and protect the water quality during and after construction. 

II. Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permits

If the proposed development contemplates any fill or earth disturbance in a wetland, watercourse or floodway, or the placement of any crossing (such as a bridge or culvert) over a wetland, watercourse or floodway, the developer will need a Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permit (also known as a “Chapter 105 Permit”) from DEP. 

III. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) Review

As part of the permit review process for some DEP permits, a cultural resource review is conducted by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC).  With respect to those DEP permits that may be needed for a development, a PHMC cultural  resource review is required for:  individual encroachment and water obstruction permits; NPDES permits for discharges of stormwater associated with construction activities where the earth disturbance is greater than 10 acres; and sewage (Act 537) approvals for new development. PHMC is charged with protecting significant archeological and historic resources.  If PHMC determines that the project site is a significant archeological site, it may conduct an archeological survey and, further, an archeological field investigation.

IV. Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI) Review

All DEP permits and approvals involve a Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI) review to determine if the proposed project will impact plant or animal species of special concern, rare and exemplary natural communities, or unique geologic features. 

V. Highway Occupancy Permits

If the proposed development requires access to a state highway, the developer must obtain a Highway Occupancy Permit (HOP) from Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).  A Traffic Impact Study analyzing the impact of the proposed development on existing traffic patterns may also be required.  

Federal Approvals and Permits

I. Section 404 Clean Water Act Permits

If the proposed development contemplates any fill or earth disturbance in a wetland, watercourse or floodway, or the placement of any crossing (such as a bridge or culvert) over a wetland, watercourse or floodway, the developer will need a state Chapter 105 Permit from DEP.  In addition, the developer may need a federal Section 404 Permit.  Section 404 Permits are issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps”) pursuant to their authority under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.  They are required for any discharge of dredged or fill material into “waters of the United States.”  

Endangered Species Act Review

If the PNDI search for the property results in a “hit” for a federally listed threatened or endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is contacted.    

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