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Kemerer Museum obtains two zoning variances

9/8/2011 | Real Estate Blog

When a business needs to expand or add a facility, time is often of the essence. However, construction and land use are tightly regulated by the state of Pennsylvania and local governments. Local governments often have very specific zoning requirements that need to be met before a real estate development or construction project can get underway. It is true that zoning and land use regulations can get in the way of a project, but these obstacles are not always insurmountable.

When a potential project is not in harmony with the zoning laws in place, many builders try to change the zoning classification for the land in question. This can be a very difficult process, but changing the zoning for a piece of land is possible. However, requesting a zoning variance is often the proper way to overcome a zoning obstacle.

Broadly, a variance is an exception to a zoning rule. One of the most common types of variance involves the size of a structure in relation to the piece of property it sits on. Most zoning codes have standard setbacks, which mean a structure cannot be situated too closely to the property line.

Recently, the Kemerer Museum in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, successfully obtained two variances from the zoning code for a proposed expansion of the museum. The Bethlehem Zoning Board voted to give the museum a variance regarding the zoning code’s requirement that buildings can only cover 35 percent of their lots. Under the proposed expansion, the museum’s buildings will cover 39 percent of the museum’s lot.

The second variance addressed the issue of parking. Under the city’s zoning code, the addition needed 14 new off-street parking spaces. Noting that visitors to the museum presently park on the street or in nearby parking garages, the museum successfully obtained a variance, which allows the expansion to move forward without adding any off-street parking spaces.

Source: The Allentown Morning Call, “Zoning Hearing Board OKs addition to Kemerer Museum,” Sarah Fulton, Aug. 25, 2011