Land Use - Zoning
The Borough of Myerstown Zoning Ordinance does the following:
- Divides Myerstown into zoning districts with varying regulations;
- Permits, prohibits, and regulates the uses of land, watercourses, and other bodies of water
- Permits, prohibits, and regulates the size, height, bulk, location, erection, construction, expansion, razing, removal, and use of structures;
- Permits, prohibits, and regulates the areas and dimensions of land and water to be occupied by uses and structures, as well as open areas to be left unoccupied;
- Establishes the maximum density and intensity of uses within zoning districts;
- Provides for the administration and enforcement of the zoning ordinance in accordance with the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) as amended, including provisions for special exception uses and variances to be administered by a Zoning Hearing Board;
- Establishes provisions for the protection of certain natural features.
Zoning Map and Zoning Districts
The zoning map was updated in 2017 to carry out the 2012 Mini-Comprehensive Plan, which included a "Future Land Use Plan" map.
In each zoning district, different uses are allowed or prohibited. There are three different ways that a use can be allowed, as allowed by state law:
- as a permitted by right use, with the zoning approved by the Zoning Officer,
- as a special exception use, with the zoning approved by the Zoning Hearing Board, and
- as a conditional use, with the zoning approved by the Borough Council (this is not used in Myerstown).
Intense and potentially controversial uses are permitted as special exception uses. This results in a public meeting that allows public comment. The Zoning Hearing Board can carefully review the application to make sure that it meets Borough ordinances. Also, conditions can be placed upon these types of approvals, such as to protect public safety.2017 Zoning Ordinance Rewrite
The 2012 Mini-Comprehensive Plan determined that the Borough's Zoning Ordinance was outdated and incompatible with the borough's existing social and economic conditions. The plan recommended rewriting the zoning ordinance to provide for a compatible and complimentary mixture of land uses, development patterns, and building designs, while respecting and enhancing the community’s established neighborhoods and other developed areas, and natural resources.
In 2016, with funding assistance provided through an Early Intervention Program Grant administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the Borough hired the Urban Research and Development Corporation to rewrite the zoning ordinance and redraw the zoning map. A year-long project commenced that included several public meetings with a goal to create a zoning ordinance which carried out the following major community development objectives:
- to serve the goals and objectives of the “Myerstown Mini-Comprehensive Plan,” and the goals of the Lebanon County Comprehensive Plan;
- to conserve environmentally sensitive lands;
- to promote traditional styles of development and strong neighborhoods;
- to provide compatibility between various types of and uses, and encourage compatible mixes of uses;
- to provide for a variety of residential densities and housing types;
- to direct industrial development and intensive commercial development to locations that will minimize conflicts with homes;
- to promote new business development in appropriate areas that will provide additional tax revenue and job opportunities; and
- to promote pedestrian-friendly and bicycle-friendly patterns of development.
The zoning ordinance primarily regulates new development, expansions of uses and changes in uses. Under State law, an existing use that was legal when it was first established can continue to operate, regardless of zoning regulations that are later enacted. An existing legal use that would not be permitted to be newly established under current zoning regulations is known as a “nonconforming use.” Generally, nonconforming uses can: a) be sold to a new operator, b) be expanded within certain limits, and c) be changed to a different nonconforming use, as long as the new use is not more intense than the old use.
For example, an auto repair garage may have existed before the Borough adopted zoning. It is located in a residential district. It may be changed to a store, which would be less intense. However, it could not be changed to an asphalt plant, which would be more intense.
Likewise, in most cases, existing vacant lots that were legally established may be built upon – even if they do not meet the minimum size requirements of a zoning ordinance. However, any building would still need to meet setback, wetland and floodplain regulations.
However, if a use was not legal when it first started, it has no right to continue. For example, if a house was illegally converted into apartments twenty years ago, it is still illegal, and can be required to be deconverted.