Friday, January 6, 2017

Township News: PSATS, Widener Law School Partner On Sustainability Ordinance Project

Sixteen Widener Commonwealth Law School students recently presented the results of their research on new and emerging sustainable development-related topics to several dozen municipal officials, solicitors, and others.  
The students’ presentations were the culmination of a semester-long partnership between PSATS and the school.
The project was conceived three years ago by Professor John C. Dernbach, who teaches property, environmental, and sustainable development law.  This was the second year that PSATS and Widener have worked together on the project.
This year, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs (PSAB) joined PSATS in presenting the law students with a list of topics that would interest municipalities.  
The law students focused on the following topics-- community gardens, farmers’ markets and roadside stands, floodplain restoration, mixed-use development, permeable paving, transit-oriented development, noncommercial keeping of goats, chickens and bees and operation of drones.
In the beginning of the semester, the students researched and prepared papers that examined the policy and legal considerations that municipalities should address when adopting ordinances regulating these topics.
PSATS provided comments on the papers, which municipalities can use to better educate themselves and foster dialogue with their residents as they consider whether to implement ordinances.
Working in two-person teams, the law students drafted model ordinances on each topic.
The ordinances are intended as a starting point for municipalities and many of the ordinances would need to be woven into existing zoning ordinances.  Township should be sure to consult with their solicitors before implementing any of these ordinances.
PSATS General Counsel Scott Coburn and PSAB representatives acted as resources and sounding boards for the students throughout the process.  
Coburn highlighted the value of the law students’ work, nothing that the research will save time and money for municipalities that are considering ordinances on these topics.
The partnership, which provides the law students with real-world examples of the far-reaching responsibilities of municipal government, is also an example of PSATS’ efforts to identify the next generation of municipal leaders.
That effort has already borne some fruit, as one student in last year’s class is using the research he conducted as the jumping off point for a business venture that aims to help municipalities track blighted property.
Student Mark Bogush says that working with PSATS to draft model ordinances on a variety of topics “provided a wonderful opportunity to develop best practices on these subjects and detailed sustainability-oriented ordinances, which municipalities can supplement or implement in their entirety.  We had the opportunity to work hand in hand with leading professionals throughout the semester to meet the drafting goals of PSATS and their clients.”
In addition to Bogush, other law students in this year’s class are Wesley Amaefuna, John Bennett, Travis Carbaugh, Josephy Donegan, Shaun Flynn, Howard Gold, Matthew Konya, Jason Lepley, Stacey Lindsay, Jordan Massoni, Daniel Schram, Jocelyn Schultz, Heather Shoemaker, LaTasha Williams and Daryl Yount.
PSATS thanks them for their efforts on behalf of Pennsylvania’s municipalities over the past several months.
The ordinances and the research papers drafted by the students are available on PSATS’ Resource Center webpage and on Widener’s Environmental Law and Sustainability Center webpage.
(Reprinted from the January Township News, PA State Association of Township Supervisors.  Click Here to subscribe.)

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