THE LAND DEVELOPMENT PROCESS IN LOWER MERION
The Township’s land development process is a multi-level, multi-faceted process involving the Township Building and Planning Staff, the Land Development Committee, the Township Planning Commission, Building and Planning Committee, the Township Board of Commissioners, Township advisory bodies (Environmental Advisory Council, Board of Historical Architectural Review, Historical Commission, Zoning Hearing Board, etc.), various Township consultants, and of course, the applicant. It is also important to recognize that there are various stages throughout the land development process where the public participates. These public input opportunities allow the residents of Lower Merion to have a say in the type of development that is occurring within their community.
Land development and subdivision are defined by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC). The MPC grants municipalities the authority to regulate land development and subdivision projects. It is these definitions that establish the framework for the municipal subdivision and land development processes. They are as follows:
The improvement of one lot or two or more contiguous lots, tracts or parcels of land for any purpose involving:
- A group of two or more residential or nonresidential buildings, whether proposed initially or cumulatively, or a single nonresidential building on a lot or lots regardless of the number of occupants or tenure; or
- The division or allocation of land or space, whether initially or cumulatively, between or among two or more existing or prospective occupants by means of, or for the purpose of streets, common areas, leaseholds, condominiums, building groups, or other features.
- A subdivision of land.
The division or redivision of a lot, tract or parcel of land by any means into two or more lots, tracts, parcels or other divisions of land including changes in existing lot lines for the purpose, whether immediate or future, of lease, partition by the court for distribution to heirs or devisees, transfer of ownership or building, or lot development.
When any property owner requests to modify property lines, this triggers the subdivision process. When a multi-family structure, which includes a townhouse, is proposed for construction, this requires land development approval. Improvements to single family dwellings do not typically trigger land development approvals, yet are reviewed administratively by the permit processes.
Expansions of non-residential buildings require land development approval from the Board of Commissioners. Certain improvements, such as façade improvements or roof replacements may not trigger land development, yet would be reviewed administratively by a building or grading permit. There is no actual square footage threshold that triggers land development in the Township; the determination is at the discretion of the Director of Building and Planning then ultimately the Board of Commissioners.
Additional Information & Documents:
- SD-LD Approval Process
- Zoning Code (Chapter 155)
- Subdivision & Land Development Code (Chapter 135)
- Zoning Requirements for Single Family Dwellings Chart
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Subdivision & Land Development Fees (PDF)
- Subdivision & Land Development Application
- Amendment or Waiver Plan Application
- Owners Authorization Form
- Montgomery County Planning Commission Act 247 Review
A conditional use application is required when an applicant proposes a use that is permitted by conditional use within a particular zoning district. Conditional uses are usually reserved for land uses that necessitate more control or additional safeguards to mitigate the impact of a development. This is typically accomplished by imposing conditions of approval. The difference between a special exception and a conditional use is that special exceptions are decided by the zoning hearing board, while conditional uses are decided by the Board of Commissioners.
Many of the application forms are available online at the Township Forms page