New Law Helps Local Governments Partner with Land Trusts

December 1, 2006

Pennsylvania Act 154, signed into law on 11/29/2006 by Governor Rendell, greatly facilitates local government partnerships with land trusts. The Act empowers local government units to:

  • appropriate money to a land trust “for the acquisition or conservation and preservation of interests in real property for the purpose of achieving open space benefits…” (including costs of appraisals, legal services, title searches, document preparation, title insurance, closing fees and survey);
  • transfer open space property interests to a land trust with or without consideration; and
  • create a “Local Land Trust” subject to various accountability measures.
While a number of local governments and land trusts have found ways to partner on projects, Act 154’s authorization for the above activities will greatly facilitate partnerships.

Additionally, the Act enables local governments (excluding counties in this case) to use voter authorized millage and earned income tax rate increases—previously confined for purchase of open space interests and retiring indebtedness incurred in acquisitions—to be used for incidental transactional fees such as appraisals and legal services.

Act 154 started as House Bill 183. It was introduced and championed in the General Assembly by Representative Chris Ross (R) of Chester County. The Senate passed it 49-0 and the House passed it 196-0. Thank you Representative Ross!

Act 154 amends Act 442 of 1967, which authorizes “the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the local government units thereof to preserve, acquire or hold land for open space uses.” Act 154 takes effect 60 days from the signing.