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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: May 15, 2019 09:55 AM
From: Senator Timothy P. Kearney
To: All Senate members
Subject: Outdated Alcohol-Related Deed Restrictions
Before the 1930's, when municipalities began using zoning codes, many of the purposes for zoning were implemented through deed restrictions. These restrictions could determine building setbacks, building materials and dimensions, and the use of property - such as using it for the manufacture or sale of alcohol. Restricting alcohol was especially prevalent in deed restrictions during the Temperance Movement, leading up to Prohibition. Despite the failure and repeal of Prohibition in 1933, these deed restrictions are still in effect and are often unknowingly transferred to property owners. Deed restrictions may affect hundreds of properties that were subdivided from what used to be a single property in the 1800's that used a deed restriction to determine use. An alcohol-related deed restriction can prevent entrepreneurs from starting restaurants, grocery stores, or other businesses despite community and local government support.

For example, the entire business district of a borough in Delaware County sits on what was once a farm whose original Quaker owner placed a deed restriction that prohibited the manufacturing or sale of alcohol. Even though the borough overwhelmingly passed a referendum to issue liquor licenses, there is no property within the town center that can evade the deed restriction. The borough risks losing its struggling grocery store that is an anchor for the community because of a single property owner within the original deed lot who demands the deed remain enforced.

This legislation would render unenforceable these alcohol-specific provisions within deed restrictions in municipalities that overwhelmingly support the sale of beer, wine, or spirits within their borders via referendum. At the same time, it respects the rights property owners who wish to continue to enforce the deed restrictions on their own properties.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation to support the economic viability of our communities.
Contact Sam Arnold, samuel.arnold@pasenate.com, with any questions.

Introduced as SB728