Federal Funds to Support Small Business Job Creation

 This image is credited to Stuart Miles on FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) recently announced the allocation of $29.2 million of funding from the U.S. Department of the Treasury's State Small Business Credit Initiative to economic, community and technology development partners in Pennsylvania. 

A full outline of the allocations are listed on DCED's website in the official announcement.  Here are some of the notable allocations:

  • $5 Million - Ben Franklin Technology Development Partners and the Life Science Greenhouses.  These are non-profit economic development intermediaries created by the state to accelerate innovation, economic growth and jobs in the high technology economy.  Expected to finance 17 early-stage Pennsylvania technology companies and create 163 high-paying jobs.
  • $2 Million - Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation.  PIDC is a non-profit economic development corporation created as a joint venture between the City of Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce to plan and implement real estate and financing transactions that attract investment, jobs and tax ratables to the City of Philadelphia.  This funding is projected to support 4 projects and create at least 40 jobs.
  • $9 Million - Pennsylvania Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund.  MELF is designed to stimulate growth and assist in the retention of Pennsylvania businesses by providing low interest loan financing for a portion of the cost of machinery and equipment purchases to eligible businesses that commit to creating or retaining jobs.  This new funding is projected to support 13 projects and create at least 828 jobs.
  • $262,500 - Economic Opportunities Fund of the Women's Opportunity Resource Center.  The Economic Opportunities Fund offers loans, investment products and services to low-income and underserved populations in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area looking to start or expand their businesses, with a special focus on women and minorities.  This new funding is projected to finance 39 loans and create 26 jobs.


Variances - What are They and What are the Standards?

This image is credited to Archipoch on FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

A variance is a strict departure from the literal enforcement of the provisions of a zoning ordinance.  Under the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, an applicant for a variance may be either the landowner or the equitable owner of the subject property.  A lessee is only permitted to pursue a variance if the lessee is specifically authorized to exercise the rights of the landowner under the lease.

An applicant may seek either a use variance or a dimensional variance.  An applicant for a use variance is requesting to use the subject property for a use that is not permitted by-right within the applicable zoning district, while an applicant for a dimensional variance is seeking a by-right permitted use under the zoning ordinance, but requires relief from the dimensional restrictions of the ordinance, such as setback or minimum lot size requirements. 

Generally, in order to obtain a variance, the applicant must demonstrate the following five (5) requirements to the municipal zoning hearing board: 

  1. That there are unique physical circumstances or conditions peculiar to the particular property which create an unnecessary hardship.
  2. That because of such physical circumstances or conditions, there is no possibility that the property can be developed in strict conformity with the zoning ordinance and that the authorization of a variance is therefore necessary to enable the reasonable use of the property.
  3. That such unnecessary hardship has not been created by the applicant.
  4. That the variance, if authorized, will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood or district in which the property is located, nor substantially or permanently impair the appropriate use or development of adjacent property, nor be detrimental to the public welfare.
  5. That the variance, if authorized, will represent the minimum variance that will afford relief and will represent the least modification possible of the regulation in issue. 

Often, the most difficult requirement for an applicant to prove is that the alleged unnecessary hardship has been created by the conditions of the property itself and that the hardship has not been self-imposed by the applicant.  The test for determining whether a hardship exists is not whether the proposed use is more desirable than the permitted use, but whether the property can be used in a reasonable manner within the restrictions of the ordinance. 

In addition, it is important to remember that in granting any variance, the zoning hearing board may attach such reasonable conditions and safeguards as it may deem necessary to implement the purposes of the zoning ordinance. 

Do you need a variance in order to complete your project?  Are you able to prove that a hardship exists and that you did not create the hardship?

Common Elements, Common Facilities, Controlled Facilities, Oh My!

This image is credited to m_bartosch on FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Municipalities often require developers to create Planned Community Associations as part of residential subdivisions.  The Association is then required to own, maintain and/or regulate certain improvements within the Community.  As the Declarant of the Planned Community, it can be a daunting task for developers to properly identify Common Elements, Common Facilities and Controlled Facilities.  What is the difference between Common Elements, Common Facilities and Controlled Facilities within a Planned Community? 

  • Common Facilities include any real estate within the Planned Community which is owned by or leased to the Association.  For example, Common Facilities may include the open space, stormwater management facilities, private drives, entrance gates, retaining walls, etc. 
  • Controlled Facilities, on the other hand, are any improvements within the Planned Community that are not owned by the Association, but which are maintained, improved, repaired, replaced, regulated, managed, insured or controlled by the Association.   Controlled Facilities are often located on a Unit, such as storm sewer easement areas, drainage easement areas, clear sight triangle easement areas, snow storage easement areas, on-lot sewage systems, etc.  Furthermore, specific restrictions set forth in the Rules and Regulations of the Association may create Controlled Facilities.  For instance, if the Association regulates the design of all storm doors to be used on dwellings in the Community, the storm doors would be considered Controlled Facilities since they are regulated by the Association. 
  • Common Elements are defined by the Pennsylvania Uniform Planned Community Act as Common Facilities or Controlled Facilities.  This is important to note when referring to Common Elements in Planned Community documents as it can be unclear as to whether the Common Facilities, Controlled Facilities, or both, are being identified.  Often times, the term Common Elements is used when one actually intends to refer to Common Facilities.  Though confusing, it is important to correctly and appropriately identify the improvements within the Community so that members of the Association are able to clearly identify their maintenance obligations.

Are you appropriately identifying Common Facilities, Controlled Facilities and Common Elements in your communities?