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Amusement park requests fix to zoning language

7/29/2011 | Real Estate Blog

Zoning laws and regulations can be vitally important for new startups, existing businesses and expanding businesses alike. Broadly, zoning covers the way state and local governments regulate the use of land. Typically, zoning regulations cover the type and size of structures that can be built on any given piece of property.

However, zoning laws can be extremely technical and the difference between a few words can mean the difference between a project’s approval and a project’s failure. Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom, the amusement park 60 miles to the north of Philadelphia, recently found itself somewhat hamstrung by just a few words in South Whitehall Township’s zoning laws.

Zoning is often a give and take process, and most rational community leaders want to have a reasonable zoning code that allows community businesses to be successful. In fact, Dorney Park was an active participant and provided feedback regarding a 2009 zoning ordinance that established the maximum heights for the amusement park’s rides.

That 2009 zoning ordinance established that Dorney Park could only have 11 rides that are taller than 85 feet. At the time, Dorney Park had eight tall rides – rides taller than 85 feet. According to the law, the park could replace any of its eight existing tall rides with a ride of the same size and could add three new tall rides.

Although that language may not look problematic upon first glance, the law required that if a tall ride were to be replaced, its replacement would have to be the same size as the previous ride. Finding that it was quite difficult to replace existing rides with a ride of the exact same size, Dorney Park returned to the township with a new proposal, which would allow the park to have its 11 tall rides without having to match the height of a replacement ride to the old ride.

Under the proposed new zoning ordinance, Dorney Park would be able to have 11 rides at the maximum legal height, which is 540 feet above sea level and ranges between 160 to 230 feet above the ground. The local Planning Commission agreed to the proposal, and the new ordinance will go into effect if it is approved by the township commissioners.

Source: The Allentown Morning Call, “Things looking up for tall rides at Dorney,” Devon Lash, 22 July 2011