Sample Natural Resource Protection and Open Space Preservation Ordinances

The following is a list of outstanding sample natural resource and open space protection ordinances chosen from among the Delaware Valley's 352 municipalities. The ordinances are available for download in PDF format. The ordinances can be used as models for municipalities in the Philadelphia metropolitan region that choose to adopt new ordinances or update current ordinances to protect their open space and natural resources.

Municipal Zoning Ordinances

Stream Corridor Protection / Riparian Buffer Ordinance

Stream Corridor Protection Ordinances ensure that vegetated riparian buffers are maintained by requiring development to be set back from stream banks, floodplains and wetland areas and by limiting the use and intensity of activities within the corridor. Buffer widths typically range from 25 to 300 feet, depending on the community's goals.

Upper Salford, Montgomery County, PA [0.1 MB .pdf]
Horsham, Montgomery County, PA [0.1 MB .pdf]
Gibbsboro, Camden County, NJ [0.1 MB .pdf]
Moorestown, Burlington County, NJ [0.1 MB .pdf]

Wetlands Management Ordinance

A Wetlands Management Ordinance is designed to protect environmentally sensitive wetland areas. Wetlands ordinances typically prohibit any disturbance of delineated wetlands for residential, commercial or industrial development.

East Brandywine, Chester County, PA [0.1 MB .pdf]

Steep Slope Ordinance

A Steep Slope Ordinance regulates development on areas of steep slope. The definition of steep varies from municipality to municipality, with 8% typically the minimum gradient classified as steep.

Upper Salford, Montgomery County, PA [0.1 MB .pdf]
East Nantmeal, Chester County, PA [0.1 MB .pdf]
Harrison, Gloucester County, NJ [0.1 MB .pdf]
Princeton, Mercer County, NJ [0.1 MB .pdf]

Comprehensive Environmental Ordinance,
i.e., "Performance Standards"

Comprehensive Environmental Ordinances are separate chapters in municipal zoning codes that typically include provisions for riparian buffers, wetlands, steep slopes, flood plains, woodlands and other environmentally sensitive areas as well as procedures for "netting-out" resources and performing site capacity calculations.

Bedminster, Bucks County, PA [0.1 MB .pdf]
Kennett, Chester County, PA [0.1 MB .pdf]

Transfer of Development Rights (TDR)

A Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Ordinance allows municipalities to preserve rural and natural features while protecting property rights and allowing some growth. A TDR program takes development that would normally occur in rural areas (sending areas) and transfers it to other parts of a municipality where growth is more acceptable (receiving areas). In addition to TDRs, this map shows those municipalities where the Pinelands Development Credit program can be applied.

Buckingham, Bucks County, PA [0.1 MB .pdf]
Chesterfield, Burlington County, NJ [0.1 MB .pdf]

*Chesterfield has a Planned Village Development (PVD) District (i.e., receiving area) ordinance, which is a companion ordinance to the TDR

Cluster Development Ordinance

A Cluster Development Ordinance enables developers to increase densities on one portion of a tract in return for preserving open space on another portion of the same tract. This map shows municipalities whose cluster development ordinances require the preservation of at least 50% of a given tract as open space.

Lower Salford, Montgomery County, PA [0.1 MB .pdf]
East Nantmeal, Chester County, PA [0.1 MB .pdf]
Eastampton, Burlington County, NJ [0.1 MB .pdf]

Conservation Design / Open Space Design / Residential Clusters / Planned Residential Development / Performance Zoning

Conservation Design, which goes by a number of different terms, is a type of zoning that protects sensitive natural features on a site and at the same time gives developers more flexibility regarding housing types and densities on the areas of a site that are more appropriate for development. Conservation Design also often requires a minimum level of open space preservation.

Princeton, Mercer County, NJ "Residential Clusters" [0.1 MB .pdf]
West Vincent, Chester County, PA "Design standards for site planning and greenway lands" [0.1 MB .pdf]
Pennsbury, Chester County, PA - "Open Space Design Option" [0.1 MB .pdf]
Tinicum, Bucks County, PA - "Flexible Development Option" [0.1 MB .pdf]

Agricultural Zoning

Agricultural Zoning is a technique that allows municipalities to protect their rural and agricultural areas by establishing large minimum lot sizes. This map shows municipalities that have agricultural zoning districts with 10-20 acre minimum lot sizes and municipalities that have districts with 20 acre or larger minimum lot sizes. It also shows those municipalities in New Jersey where Pinelands large lot zoning is applied.

West Fallowfield, Chester County, PA [0.1 MB .pdf]

Tree Protection

Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County, PA [0.1 MB pdf]
Kennett Township, Chester County, PA [0.1 MB pdf]
Lawrenceville, Mercer County, NJ [1.2 MB pdf]
Mansfield, Burlington County, NJ [0.1 MB pdf]
Plumstead, Bucks County, PA [0.1 MB pdf]
Radnor Township, Delaware County, PA [0.1 MB pdf]
Woolwich, Gloucester County, NJ [0.1 MB pdf]

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Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)
Economic Development District