• Brownfield Redevelopment
     • Green Building Standards
     • Accessory Dwelling Units

     • Historic Preservation
     • Main Street Program

     • Alt. Energy Ordinances
     • Stormwater Management

     • Smart Growth Code Fixes
     • Form-Based Codes
     • LEED-ND
     • Transit Oriented Dev.
     • Zoning Ordinances
     • Scenario Planning

     • Agricultural Security Areas
     • Clustered Subdivisions
     • Official Map Ordinance

     • Access Management
     • Complete Streets Policy
     • Impact Fees
     • Traffic Calming
     • Walkability

Zoning Ordinances

Illustration showing building permit, architectural plans and a tape measure

Zoning ordinances are used by municipalities to implement comprehensive plans or to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. Zoning locates land uses into discrete districts. Zoning ordinances consist of two parts. The first is a text segment that outlines different districts and includes such topics as  allowed uses, bulk requirements (building height, setback requirements, etc.) and other use-related requirements (parking, signs, etc.). The second component of a zoning ordinance is the zoning map. This outlines where different zoning districts are located within the municipality.

Zoning can be used to preserve valuable open space, direct growth according to a community vision and protect property values. A zoning code can be developed to apply jointly to two or more municipalities. Zoning is a widely used and accepted planning tool throughout the Commonwealth and the United States. Enabling legislation can be found in Article VI of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code.

The attached Model Zoning Ordinances are meant to be adopted in whole, but can be modified based on the unique needs and vision of a community. As with all the tools in the toolbox, a solicitor should be consulted prior to adoption.


  • Addresses incompatible uses
  • Clearly defines for developers and citizens where certain activities can occur
  • Can protect natural resources and open spaces
  • Allows for envisioning future build out scenarios


  • Drafting zoning ordinances can take a long time and can be expensive
  • Can open a municipality up to legal liability
  • Potential for backlash among property rights groups
  • Zoning ordinances can be restrictive, difficult to amend and reactive 

Practical Tips

  • Consult a solicitor during ordinance development to ensure compliance with the MPC
  • Engage the public, with special attention to the development and business community
  • Consult with other municipalities that have recently written or rewritten their ordinances