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The Zoning Officer

One of the many important members of a municipal team is the person overseeing the zoning department. If you open up your laptop and investigate the definition of zoning, you’ll find the following:

Zoning: the act or process of partitioning a city, town, borough, or township into zones for different purposes (such as residence or business) also: the set of ordinances by which such zones are established and regulated.

Further reconnoiter of the term, zoning officer, revealed it means an appointee of the local government who shall administer the provisions of the approved ordinances. Quite often, the job of code enforcement is added to this key employee’s duties. Here’s that definition:

A Code Enforcement Officer is a sworn or non-sworn inspector, officer or investigator, employed by the municipality, who possesses specialized training in, and whose primary duties are the prevention, detection, investigation, and enforcement of violations of laws regulating public nuisance, public health, safety, and welfare, public works, business activities, building standards, land-use, or municipal affairs.

As you can see, this position holds a great amount of responsibility, and quite often when trouble is brewing in the meeting room, it is a zoning issue of some form. The need for a qualified zoning official is crucial in keeping control of this critical role of local government. This position works with the appointed planning commission and zoning hearing board, (ZHB) to ensure the wants and needs of the community are being met pertaining to zoning, properly enforced and upheld by the ZHB.

The rules and regulations of zoning can change quite often, not only by the local council or supervisors, but also by the Commonwealth. Ongoing education is absolutely necessary to keep up with these ever-evolving laws. Many counties have regular gatherings of zoning officers to share news and unique situations with like-minded individuals. The Commonwealth offers regular classes on this sometimes-complicated process. One zoning misstep can land a municipality in hot water and quickly evolve into a possibly expensive lawsuit.

A blog post by the law firm, McNees Wallace & Nurick LCC stated, “Pennsylvania has 67 counties and 2,561 municipalities. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), as of 2015 approximately 68% of all municipalities in Pennsylvania had zoning regulations. Of the 1,739 municipalities with zoning, 137 of those municipalities had not adopted their own zoning ordinance and were under a county zoning ordinance. That left 822 municipalities without any zoning regulations. Municipalities without zoning tend to be more rural, less developed and less populated than municipalities with zoning. DCED found that as of 2015, 98.2% of Pennsylvania’s urban population was zoned while only 68.9% of the rural population was zoned.”

One cannot stress enough the significance of the Zoning Officer position. Finding just the right person to fulfill the obligations of a zoning/code enforcement officer can be a taunting task at best. Keystone Municipal Solutions can offer a range of services to assist with the professional search of qualified candidates. Having qualified and experienced municipal advisors at your side can save you time, money and peace of mind. Our goal is making sure you have highly qualified candidates who can , hit the ground running and will be prepared to take on the challenges proper zoning regulating requires.

It’s time to “fire this thing up,” get your zoning department on the right track.


About the Author

David L. Anthony is a member of the Keystone Municipal Solutions team of experts. He is a veteran of municipal government, having served more than 32 years in various positions of public service. Contact him at To learn more about David and the Keystone Municipal Solutions team, click here.

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