APA PA Chapter News: April

The Latest News from PA Chapter of APA…

The national planning conference, held in Philadelphia in early April, was a resounding success, with over 4,000 participants, while APA had only planned on 3,000. This was a post-pandemic record for number of participants and showed that planning is back on track. Pennsylvania planners showed off the best and brightest of our work, which was greatly appreciated by the national audience attending the conference.

Feedback from conference attendees about the many mobile workshops taking place in southeastern PA, the Lehigh Valley, Berks County, and neighboring states was overwhelmingly positive, and most attendees loved Philadelphia and the dramatic changes and growth that have occurred in the city over the past couple of decades.

This month’s newsletter builds on the success and momentum of the conference by offering information on training, volunteering, data, and funding. Enjoy!

Leah Eppinger Receives Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence

Congratulations to our Leah Eppinger on receiving the Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence!

Leah Eppinger, AICP, is the Executive Director of the Housing Authority of the County of Dauphin. At the Housing Authority, she works to maintain a strong Public Housing Program and Housing Choice Voucher Program, which is responsible for the housing of over 2,000 Dauphin County households. Leah also is the President of the Affordable Housing Associates of Dauphin County, where the main goal is to maintain and increase the affordable housing stock in the county. During the past few years, Leah has developed several new programs and worked with local municipalities to increase the number of affordable housing units in the county while also reducing barriers. Leah serves as a statewide elected member of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association Executive Board where she continues to promote housing opportunities and affordability through legislative and local municipal codes. Visit our website to see the press release and a list of winners. 

Changes Taking Place in the Manufactured Housing Community
May 3 from 12:00 PM – 1:15 PM

There are approximately 1,600 manufactured home communities (MHCs – also known as “mobile home parks” or “land-lease communities”) in PA, home to thousands of working families, seniors, and ordinary Pennsylvanians.

In the last 10 years, private-equity and large real estate investment corporations have “discovered” MHCs as the foolproof “cash cow” of commercial real estate and have rushed to purchase communities, aggressively raise “below-market” rents, and trade or consolidate for ever-increasing returns. The homeowners who own homes in these communities are finding themselves priced out and with no options to own or rent anything in their hometowns.

Over the last 40 years, Resident Owned Communities (ROCs) have proven themselves to be a solution to preserving this “largest source of unsubsidized affordable homeownership in the country”.

Representatives from ROC USA, the National Consumer Law Center, the Regional Housing Legal Services and the Centre County Planning and Community Development Office will bring you up to date on why MHCs are an important part of every community’s housing market, how ROCs preserve and revitalize these neighborhoods, and what the role of community planners are in ensuring that communities are not losing existing affordable housing while they struggle to create new. This is an opportunity to test your assumptions, raise your concerns and challenge the practitioners. Deadline to register is May 2.

CM credit is pending approval. You must attend the webinar live to earn CM credit.

**The Pennsylvania Chapter is not responsible for the materials or opinions of the speaker(s) you will hear**

Planning Webcast Series

Earn over 50 CM credits each year online – at no cost to members of participating organizations that support the Planning Webcast Series. Webcasts take place live on Fridays from 1:00 – 2:30 PM ET and are worth 1.5 CM credits (for live viewing only) unless otherwise noted. The first series is scheduled for January 20, 2023. More information online.

For APA members that need CM credit for on-demand education sessions are available. The Planning Webcast Series, sponsored by APA Chapters & Divisions, are offering credit till the end of the year (12/31/2023). More information online.


The Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Education Institute (PMPEI) courses are here for you if you are a local planning commissioner, zoning board member, zoning administrator, elected official or municipal planning staff. PMPEI, established in 1992, is the Chapter’s primary outreach to the planning community and is a collaboration between the PA Chapter of the American Planning Association (PA/APA) and the PA State Association of Boroughs (PSAB). PMPEI offers four, 10-hour in-depth courses, and four 90-minute online courses dealing with the Municipalities Planning Code and Community Planning, Zoning and Zoning Administration, and Subdivision and Land Development Review. Classes are kept small, are within reasonable distances, low cost, team-taught by experienced instructors, and include lots of hands-on instruction. Course listings and descriptions may be viewed at PMPEI’s website, pmpei.org. Contact Terri Dickow at tdickow@boroughs.org (or 1-800-232-7722 ext 1042) to find out how you can be part of the Chapter’s planning education outreach!

Great Places in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association is looking for Great Places in two categories: Great Public Spaces and Great Transformations. Great Places are unique, memorable places that display community planning best practices, have an exemplary character, and a sustainable vision for tomorrow.

We want to hear your suggestions for a Great Public Space or Great Transformation designation. Please complete the online submission form by Monday, May 8, 2023. Nominations will be considered by the Great Places in Pennsylvania Judges Committee with notification to applicants in the summer.

Communication and Membership Committee

The Communication and Membership Committee is looking for volunteers to contribute articles for our monthly E-News. If you are interested or would like more information, please contact Amy Evans or Amy McKinney.

Opportunities for Giving

Each year the Chapter offers a scholarship to support individuals seeking funds for academic degree programs, internships, and professional development activities.  If anyone would like to contribute to the Chapter’s Scholarship fund, donations can be made here. We accept all major credit cards, or you can send a check. Please make your check payable to “PA Chapter of APA Scholarship Fund” and mail it to P.O. Box 4680, Harrisburg PA 17111.

Student Scholarships Available

The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association has scholarships available. The scholarship program supports individuals seeking funds for academic degree programs, internships, and professional development activities that enhance planning at the local, regional, state, and national levels. The deadline to apply is May 1. Recipients will be announced by late summer. Please review policy guidelines before applying. More information is available online.

FEMA Region 3 Coffee Breaks Webinar Series

FEMA Region 3 hosts a webinar series for anyone who wants to reduce risk in their community. These hour-long “Coffee Breaks” are held every other month. FEMA staff share mitigation best practices and highlight the work happening at the federal, regional, state and community levels to reduce risk in Region 3. Coffee Break webinars are open to anyone in the hazard mitigation, resiliency, or risk reduction planning fields. This work can be in the public or private sectors. Community planners, emergency and floodplain managers, GIS technicians, government officials, and contractors – or anyone interested – is welcome to attend. You can find more information here

Equity and Planning
The PA Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council: Your Input Needed!
By Amy Evans, AICP

The PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) maintains a Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council (CNRAC). This council draws upon its appointed citizen members and their diverse experiences and perspectives to provide quality advice on the conservation and stewardship of the commonwealth’s natural resources.

APA PA member Jerry Walls, FAICP, was appointed to the CNRAC this year and has a request for all of us: share concerns and issues that you are hearing and ideas for improvements related to all of DCNR’s functions, whether its parks, forests, trails, educational programs, or other services.

You can share your thoughts with Jerry at jerry@jwallsaicp.com.

Overview of the Municipal Assistance Program (MAP)
By Kate McMahon, AICP

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) offers funding to municipalities for planning through its Municipal Assistance Program (MAP). MAP provides funding to municipalities to support community and economic development, including comprehensive community plans and implementation, land use ordinance development, and Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) studies. MAP funding can also be used to develop shared services including regional fire and police services, shared personnel agreements, and boundary change studies.

Projects that successfully receive MAP funding emphasize partnerships, identifiable results, cost savings, level of service improvements, innovation, and long-term commitment. MAP funding requires a 50 percent match through funding or in-kind services.

Briar Creek Township and North Centre Township, both located in Columbia County, joined together to develop a multi-municipal comprehensive plan using the MAP program and received $15,000 toward the project. The plan includes details on how to leverage a rural way of life into community togetherness, recreation opportunities, conservation, and better government. Operating off a budget of $30,000, the comprehensive plan, developed by Hailstone Economic Group, has helped garner $25,000 in funding support from DCNR to contribute toward a masterplan for Briar Creek Lake Park. This is a specific example of turning a community dream into a reality by making a commitment to planning with neighbors.

The DCED Governor’s Center for Local Government Services administers the Municipal Assistance Program. To learn more, visit www.dced.pa.gov/MAP.  

County-by-County Economic Output Numbers: Have We Recovered from the Pandemic?
By Amy Evans, AICP

The National Association of Counties (NACo) released an analysis this month with the answer: yes and no. Overall, economic output across the nation increased by almost 6% between 2020 and 2021, rebounding from a contraction of nearly 3% from 2019 to 2020.

But just under half of counties nationwide that had decreases in output between 2019 and 2020 still lag behind their pre-pandemic gross domestic product (GDP). Pandemic-driven declines in many of these counties are layered with lingering effects of the 2008-2009 Great Recession.

NACo’s blog post walks through these and other statistics and provides many informational resources for county governments.