House Bill No. 1473 proposes to add what would be known as the “Highway Corridor Enhancement Act,” which, according to the proposed legislation, would serve the following purposes: (1) “To provide municipalities with alternative means to retain or protect, for the public and economic benefit, the natural, historical, architectural, archeological, cultural, scenic or open space values of real property along public highway corridors,” and (2) “To better enable municipalities to control the erection and maintenance of outdoor advertising devices in areas along the highways within this Commonwealth.[...]”
The proposal defines several terms, including “highway corridor conservation easement,” which is: “A nonpossessory interest in real property, whether appurtenant or in gross, imposing limitations or affirmative obligations, the purposes of which may include, but are not limited to: (1) retaining or protecting for the public and economic benefit the natural, scenic or open space values of real property adjacent to or within view of highways; (2) assuring its availability for agricultural, forest, recreational or open space use; (3) protecting, conserving or managing the use of natural resources; (4) protecting wildlife; (5) maintaining or enhancing land, air or water quality or preserving the historical, architectural, archaeological or cultural aspects of real property adjacent to, or within view of, highways. Such interest may impose limitations on the use of the property for outdoor advertising devices for such purposes.”
The proposed “Highway Corridor Enhancement Act” would allow, generally, a land trust or municipality to acquire by purchase, contract, gift or device a highway corridor conservation easement. Interestingly, the proposal provides the assessment of a private interest in land subject to a highway conservation easement would reflect any change in market value of the property as a result from the acquisition of the conservation easement interest.
The proposed legislation would allow a municipality to establish a highway corridor overlay district within 660 feet of the nearest edge of the right-of-way of any highway or portion of a highway within the municipality in order to further promote the purposes of the “Highway Corridor Enhancement Act.” By way of example, the highway corridor overlay district could include “[r]estrictions of commercial or industrial use or development of property within the district, including limitations on the use of property for outdoor advertising devices.”