Insights into Third-Party Approvals for Land Development

Getting approvals for land development can be a complex and time-consuming process. While developers have control over most checklist items, third-party approvals often present a different challenge. Two essential approvals required for land development are...

a shovel breaking ground for land development

Getting approvals for land development can be a complex and time-consuming process. While developers have control over most checklist items, third-party approvals often present a different challenge. Two essential approvals required for land development are PennDOT's Highway Occupancy permits and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Erosion and Sediment Control permit. These approvals can be difficult to obtain, and some Townships may hesitate to grant final approval until they are secured. To ensure a smooth land development process, it's crucial to stay updated on third-party approval checklist items.

The PHMC Checklist Item

A recent proposal, numbered 012-0700-001, has caught the attention of developers. Although it hasn't been adopted yet, understanding its potential impacts is crucial. The proposal aims to include a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) checklist item in the General NPDES permit for Construction activities. This checklist item focuses on assessing potential cultural resource impacts, and currently, it is only triggered for individual NPDES permits for Construction activities involving land disturbance over 10 acres. If included in the General NPDES permit, applicants will need to submit a State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) Project Review Form to the PHMC for a review of historic properties before applying for the NPDES permit.

Exemptions for Solar Developers

While the PHMC checklist item may seem like an additional hurdle, there are exemptions outlined in the proposal's Appendix A. One of these exemptions states that solar developers may be exempt if their proposed activity will not affect above ground historic resources or archaeological resources that are 50 years old or older. However, this exemption is site-specific, and it's important to carefully assess if other exemptions can be met for typical solar development.

Some of the activities and corresponding conditions included in the proposal's exemptions are:

  1. Permits or approvals with no planned earth disturbance or alterations to above ground historic resources.
  2. Permits or approvals where the proposed ground disturbance activity will only occur in previously disturbed areas.
  3. Permits or approvals where the proposed activity will not affect above ground historic resources or archaeological resources that are 50 years old or older.
  4. Permit or approval renewals with no significant physical changes to previously authorized activities.
  5. Permits or approvals for the replacement of existing facilities.
  6. Expansions that do not extend beyond the previously approved footprint or height.
  7. Construction and maintenance of temporary road crossings or crossings over regulated waters of the Commonwealth.
  8. Permits or approvals for the placement of fill.
  9. Permits and approvals specific to agricultural plowing or tilling activities, timber harvesting, and road maintenance activities.
  10. Emergency Permits and Undertakings.

It's essential to stay informed about the status of the proposal as it moves closer to adoption. By anticipating new requirements, developers can save valuable time during the land development process.

A picture of a construction site Caption: A construction site during the land development process.

We're Here to Help

Navigating the land development process and securing third-party approvals can be challenging. That's why our colleagues at BOW Renewables are always ready to assist. With their deep knowledge of the land development process and expertise in obtaining these types of approvals, they provide efficient and detail-oriented support.

DECOMMISSIONING LEGISLATION UPDATE: As of April 26, 2022, House Bill 2104 is still under review in the PA House of Representatives. Meanwhile, Senate Bill 284 remains in the PA House's Environmental Resources & Energy Committee.

COMMUNITY SOLAR UPDATE: Positive movement on various PA community solar bills is eagerly anticipated. You can find the latest status of House Bill 1555 here and Senate Bill 472 here.

If you have any questions or comments about third-party approvals, renewable energy, or any related topic, please feel free to reach out to our firm at (717-845-1524) or email Andy Miller ([email protected]) or Cory Dillinger ([email protected]). We're here to assist you in any way we can.

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