Site Analysis Plan
A Site Analysis Plan can promote the protection and integration of natural and cultural resources into a development proposal. As part of a municipal subdivision and land development review process, the site analysis plan identifies and interprets environmental characteristics and other important resources of a tract before development is proposed. This is an important first step into determining how to protect these resources during the development process.
Incorporating a site analysis plan into the development review process can result in designs that offer superior protection to important natural and physical features of a site and connection to the larger community. The site analysis plan also provides the information needed to determine whether a development meets a municipality's natural resource protection standards and other ordinance requirements. When a municipality requires a site analysis plan, it can encourage designs that are sensitive to environmental features on a site.
Linking site resources such as vegetation, slope, historic resources and drainage patterns to proposed development layouts are some of the primary reasons for incorporating the site analysis into the ordinance's plan information requirements of the subdivision and land development ordinance.
The following advantages are associated with the use of a site analysis plan as part of the subdivision and land development process:
- Conserves energy by limiting site disturbance;
- Facilitates a conversation between the applicant and the municipality concerning how resources can be incorporated into a proposed development;
- Provides a graphic depiction of existing resources before development design commences;
- Provides information needed to help preserve unique, endangered, and sensitive natural resources;
- Allows land to be developed efficiently with the least degree of environmental impact; and
- Helps preserve the natural and historical qualities of the site and its surrounding area.
The following limitations may be associated with site analysis plan requirements:
- Requires additional research by the developer and review time by municipal staff, and
- May result in applicants requesting a waiver from providing this information should it be too onerous.
How To Use This Tool
A site analysis plan is typically part of a municipal subdivision and land development ordinance. Article V of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code grants municipalities authority to regulate subdivisions and land development by enacting a subdivision and land development ordinance.
The following resources are typically required to be part of a site analysis plan. This list should complement the standard plan information requirements for a preliminary plan. Please note that not all resources listed will be applicable in every case:
- Contour lines depicting terrain shown at specific intervals;
- Degree of slope in different ranges (i.e. less than 15 percent, 15-25 percent and greater than 25 percent);
- Areas within flood hazard districts;
- Perennial and seasonal watercourses and water bodies;
- Drainage basins and sub-basins;
- Wetlands, wetland margins and areas with high groundwater;
- Riparian buffers;
- Soil types and their boundaries, highlighting hydric, alluvial, and prime agricultural soils;
- General geological characteristics, including rock formation type(s) and locations of fault zones (particularly in areas with carbonate geology);
- Woodlands (while some municipalities require only the identification of woodland boundaries, others require a more detailed inventory of existing vegetation, such as tree masses, tree lines, and hedgerows, individual trees over six inches in diameter, wetland vegetation, meadows, and pastures);
- Viewsheds and ridgelines;
- Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI) sites, and
- Existing man-made features, including historically significant sites or structures, buildings, driveways, streets, alleys, water and sewer facilities, hazardous sites, dumps, underground tanks, active and abandoned wells, quarries, and landfill.
Contemporary subdivision and land development ordinances require the applicant to map a comprehensive inventory of natural resources and provide the site information needed to enforce other municipal land use regulations. In most cases, older ordinances can benefit most from this recommended update.
Municipalities with site analysis standards include, but are not limited to:
- East Coventry Township Natural and Historic Resources Protection standards, found in Section 429 of its Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance.
- East Pikeland Township Natural and Historic Features Protection standards, found in Section 425 of its Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance.
- North Coventry Township Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance.
The specific authority for a site analysis plan derives more specifically from the Municipalities Planning Code, Section 503 (2), which allows municipalities to include provisions in their subdivision and land development ordinances "for insuring that…" the layout or arrangement of the subdivision or land development shall conform to the comprehensive plan and to any regulations or maps adopted in furtherance thereof…". The Pennsylvania Code, Title 25 Environmental Protection, also addresses environmental protection.
A Site Analysis Plan allows the physical and natural characteristics of a tract to exert a greater influence in determining how the site will be developed, minimizing site disturbance and environmental damage while preserving features that are valued by communities. A site analysis plan can assist a municipality in ensuring that development plan submissions are consistent with its Land Use Plan and code requirements. Landscapes2 encourages municipalities to update and revise ordinance standards to provide consistent county-wide comprehensive natural resource protection.
Site Analysis Plans can help conserve energy by minimizing site disturbance and environmental damage, as noted above, and by limiting the energy that may have been necessary to remediate associate environmental disturbances.