On October 7, 2015, Governor Wolf signed into law Act 42 of 2015 which amends Pennsylvania’s Municipalities Planning Code to permit municipalities to appoint up to three residents of the municipality as alternate members of the municipality’s planning commission. More specifically, Act 42 addresses appointment of alternative members of the planning commission and assigns them a four year term of service. In addition, when seated by designation to sit in a place with a regular member who has recused themselves or been disqualified by the governing body, the alternate member will be permitted to participate in all proceedings, discussions and vote during the proceedings for which they have been seated. The new Act further provides that alternates may participate in any proceeding or discussion of the planning commission, but shall not be entitled to vote as a member or reimbursed unless designated as a voting alternate member. Alternates will be prohibited from serving as members of the municipality’s zoning hearing board or as a zoning officer.
Act 42 also makes provision for the formal designation of alternate members to sit in the place of members who are absent, have recused themselves, or been disqualified by a governing body. Where such absences or recusals or disqualifications prevent a quorum from being reached, the chairman of the planning commission is permitted to designate as many alternate members as may be necessary to reach a quorum. Once an alternate member of the planning commission has been seated on a matter, they will continue to serve in all matters relating to the case for which they were initially designated until a final decision is made on that matter. Decisions on appointment by the chairman will be on a case by case basis and in a rotation according to declining seniority among the alternates.