Inventory of Historic Preservation Ordinances in Pennsylvania Municipalities

With support from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, from 2017-2018, the CLUS and partners at Millersville University conducted an Inventory & Analysis of Historic Preservation Ordinances in Pennsylvania Municipalities. The results of this research will be presented to the state legislature, and inform decisions about providing support for historic preservation at the municipal level.

Project Background
The Pennsylvania General Assembly has empowered local governments to protect and preserve historic resources as part of the local planning and zoning process through the enactment of two different statutes with preservation provisions: The Historic District Act of June 13, 1961, Public Law 282, No.167 as amended (HDA); and the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code Act of 1968, Public Law 805, No.247 as reenacted and amended (MPC).

While these two laws are complementary and provide local governments with a range of tools to regulate historic resources, the language of the MPC is particularly broad and lacks specific details about the mechanism municipalities should employ to preserve historic resources. The language of the MPC has led municipalities to craft local ordinances with historic preservation provisions that can vary considerably in form and approach from community to community.

Historic Preservation Inventory
Currently, no agency or organization in Pennsylvania has a complete listing of which municipalities have historic preservation ordinances, nor is it known what measures municipalities have enacted to protect their historic resources.

A comprehensive inventory of all municipalities is needed to fully understand the landscape of how historic preservation is being carried out at the local level in Pennsylvania. Our research team will identify the communities in Pennsylvania that have enacted historic preservation ordinances, catalog the specific methods being used by municipalities across the Commonwealth, and evaluate the extent to which the current provisions of the HDA and the MPC are providing local governments with the appropriate authority, tools, and assistance to preserve the Commonwealth’s historic resources.

Goals and Objectives
Goal #1: Develop an inventory of municipalities
We plan to identify Pennsylvania municipalities engaged in historic resource preservation activities, particularly activity in Pennsylvania’s rural municipalities.
Goal #2: Document the types of regulatory activities
Documenting the types of activities in MPC-enabled ordinances that have historic resource preservation provisions is critical for facilitating an understanding of the specific ways that communities with these local ordinances are applying the general provisions of the law to protect local historic resources.
Goal #3: Develop a typology of ordinances
Identifying the most common types of local ordinances will enable analysis of how municipalities across the state are applying the provisions of the MPC. Additionally, this will provide models for municipalities seeking to develop their own local ordinances, and guidance to policymakers seeking to clarify or bring greater uniformity to the state’s historic preservation statutes.
Goal #4: Conduct a spatial analysis of municipalities
The intent of the spatial analysis is to allow us to visualize, question, analyze, and interpret the data we collect to better understand relationships, patterns, and trends related to historic resource preservation.
Goal #5: Conduct critical case studies of municipalities
We will complete a limited number of case studies in order to examine the application and administration of different regulatory approaches employed by municipalities to protect their historic resources.
Goal #6: Develop policy recommendations
Our findings will provide greater clarity about the nature and extent of municipal historic resource preservation that will have direct policy implications for enhancing the protection of the Commonwealth’s local historic resources.
Angela Cuthbert, Ph.D.
Geography Department
Millersville University

Dana Edsall
Volunteer in Residence
Geo-graphic Laboratory
Geography Department
Millersville University

Affiliate Scholars

Kyle Myers

CLUS Graduate Student Fellow

Originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Kyle is a graduate student in the Geoenvironmental Studies program at Shippensburg University. In 2021, he graduated from Penn State with a double major in Geography and Anthropology. His current academic interests are in energy geography,...

Steven Burg, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of History and Philosophy

B.A. from Colgate University M.A. from University of Wisconsin-Madison Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin-Madison I am a specialist in public history, historic preservation, and community history, with an interest in how the preservation and interpretation of cultural and natural resources influences...
College of Arts & Sciences

George Pomeroy, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Geography-Earth Science

Ph.D. in Urban Studies from University of Akron M.S. in Geography from Western Washington University B.A. Ed. in Geography from Western Washington University George Pomeroy is the Associate Director of the CLUS. He teaches courses and conducts research related to community and regional planning, as...
College of Arts & Sciences

Antonia Price

Project Manager, Department of Geography-Earth Science

H.B.S. in Biology from University of Utah Antonia received an Honors Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Utah, with Undergraduate Research Scholar designation. As Project Manager for the Center for Land Use and Sustainability, she oversees...
College of Arts & Sciences