Non-Residential Development and Recreational Land Dedication or Recreation Fees
Sec. 503(11) of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (“MPC”) permits municipalities to require, through its subdivision and land development ordinance, subdividers and/or land developers to dedicate land, or a recreation fee in lieu of land dedication, to the municipality for the purpose of providing recreational space. An evolving issue surrounding these dedications or recreation fees is whether they are applicable to non-residential uses, such as commercial and industrial, since the MPC is silent on non-residential development projects concerning recreation fees.
A panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court recently addressed this issue for the first time in In Re Appeal of Gibraltar Rock, Inc., where Gibraltar Rock, Inc. (“Gibraltar”) sought to development 223 acres as an industrial quarry site. Gibraltar was required to dedicate 80 acres for recreation purposes or pay approximately $2,100,000 in lieu of dedication. Gibraltar challenged the validity of the provision as it applied to an industrial use.
The panel found the record failed to establish any reasonable relationship between the land dedication or recreation fees and the impact of the quarry. No evidence was provided establishing a connection between employees and recreational needs, let alone 80 acres or $2,100,000 for only 18-20 employees. For this reason, the land dedication and recreation fee was held inapplicable as to Gibraltar. The panel limited its decision to the facts of the case and noted that a question still exists as to whether land dedication or recreation fees may be assessed on a non-residential development in future cases.