Hopewell Township, York County, Pennsylvania

Hopewell Township, population 5,884 (2010), is located in southern York County, Pennsylvania, population 381,751 (2000), on the Pennsylvania-Maryland border. The closest metropolitan areas to Hopewell Township are the City of York, Pennsylvania, 15 miles to the north, and Baltimore, Maryland, 30 miles to the south.

Hopewell is primarily rural, with a mixture of farms, orchards and wooded areas. Most of the Township’s Residential and Commercial zoning surrounds Stewartstown, an incorporated borough in the center of the Township. However, the vast majority of the township’s 15-square mile area is zoned either Agricultural or Conservation. Hopewell is one of 12 townships in York County with TDR programs. The following Process section is based on the 2011 version of Hopewell Zoning Ordinance.


In the Hopewell program, development rights can be transferred between any two parcels zoned Agricultural or any two parcels zoned Conservation. In the Agricultural zone, allowable density decreases as the size of the parcel (as it existed on June 20, 1974) increases. For example, parcels zoned Agricultural and 6 acres or less are permitted two dwelling units and parcels of from 30 to 80 acres are permitted five dwelling units. In the Conservation zone, in addition to one existing dwelling unit as of April 4, 1996, one additional dwelling unit is permitted for each 25 acres of lot size.

The owners of sending sites may elect to transfer some or all of the development rights provided that at least one development right remain on the sending site. At the discretion of the Board of Supervisors, the sending site owners can have a subdivision plan approved and recorded for the sending site showing the number of rights transferred and the number of rights remaining on the sending site.

In an effort to preserve land of high agricultural quality, Hopewell code section 374(b) describes land as being of low quality for agricultural use if any of the following three conditions exist.

  • The land is not prime agricultural land, meaning not having a soil capability rating of Class I, II or III; or
  • The parcel cannot feasibly be farmed due to physical constraints, unsuitable size or unworkable shape; or
  • The parcel is heavily wooded.

For transfers between parcels within the Agricultural zone, the Board of Supervisors can grant approval if all of the following three conditions are met.

  • The proposed sending site has no land of low quality for agricultural use and the parcel has no physical constraints that would otherwise prevent the building of a dwelling.
  • The proposed receiving site can accommodate the transferred development entirely on land of low quality for agricultural use. (However the Board can waive this requirement if the dwellings proposed for the receiving site would be contiguous to lots less than 1.5 acres in size with existing dwellings or approval for dwelling construction.)
  • At least one development right is retained on the sending site unless the site is permanently joined to an adjacent parcel that has at least one development right.

The Board of Supervisors can approve a transfer between two parcels zoned Conservation if all of the three conditions needed for transfers between parcels zoned Agricultural are met and if the transfer meets a fourth condition: that the use of the transferred development rights on the receiving site will not cause erosion into a stream or damage wetlands.

Program Status

Gilbert G. Malone, of the Law Offices of Malone & Neubaum in York, Pennsylvania, advises several townships in York County on land use matters. In 1996, Mr. Malone reported that the Hopewell TDR program had generated one transfer to date. No updated estimates were available in 2011.