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Lower Chanceford Township, York County, Pennsylvania

Lower Chanceford Township, population 2,899 (2010), lies in eastern York County, Pennsylvania. The Susquehanna River separates Lower Chanceford from Lancaster County to the east. The City of York is 20 miles northwest of Lower Chanceford and Baltimore, Maryland, is 40 miles to the south. The Township is primarily composed of farmlands and natural areas.

In 1990, the Township amended its zoning code, allowing transfers between properties in common ownership in the agricultural and conservation zoning districts. The agricultural zone is intended to preserve farmland characteristics, minimize land uses that are detrimental to farming, reduce the need for highways and other public facilities and maintain farm sizes that permit efficient agricultural operations. The conservation zone is designed to conserve open space, water supply sources, woodlands, wildlife habitat and other natural resources. This case study duplicates the profile that appeared in Beyond Takings and Givings in 2003.

Process

In the agricultural and conservation zones, single family residential units are allowed only by conditional use permit. The maximum density varies with the size of the parcel. On a parcel greater than seven acres but less than 30 acres, two units are allowed, or a maximum density of one unit per 3.5 acres. If the parcels are 830 acres or larger, the maximum density is one unit per 44 acres. To achieve this maximum, dwelling units must be located on poorer agricultural soil, (capability rating III or higher), or on land that cannot be feasibly farmed due to the size and shape of the parcel or the presence of rocks, swamps, wooded areas or steep slopes. If no such areas exist on a parcel, homes must be located on the least agriculturally-productive land feasible.

In addition to the allocations described above, the number of units allowed can be doubled if the additional units are located on land that is considered of low quality for agricultural use for any of the following reasons:

  1. The soil capability is rated at IV or worse.
  2. The land cannot be farmed because of physical features (such as rock outcroppings, swamps and slopes) or because the parcel has a size or shape that precludes the efficient use of farm machinery.

Development rights can be transferred from one parcel to another under the same ownership, subject to the following conditions.

  • The land on the receiving site must be of poor agricultural quality or at least of poorer quality than the land on the sending site.
  • Transfers cannot be made from sending sites which cannot be developed due to inadequate access, steep slopes, wetlands or other physical constraints.
  • Once development rights have been transferred, the sending site cannot qualify under the code provisions which apply to the doubling of maximum density on lands with an agricultural quality rating of IV or worse.
  • The sending site must either have an existing dwelling unit on it or retain the right to build at least one unit.
  • The transfer must receive public notice through a recordable agreement between the Township and the property owners.

Program Status

In 1996, Gilbert G. Malone, an attorney who served as solicitor to the Township, reported that two development rights had been transferred.