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New zoning code will allow for easier development, fewer zoning hang-ups

8/28/2012 | Real Estate Blog

In our last post, we noted that Philadelphia has official begun implementing its new zoning code. The event is an important one for business owners and real estate developers, who will have fewer zoning issues to deal with along the way.

Philadelphia’s old 1962 code authorized multiple land uses that have long since become obsolete, for example, and had nothing to say on a number of issues very relevant to modern city life. While the old zoning code categorized 410 different uses, the new one has 99 simpler categories. This simplification will have the effect of reducing the number of projects that need variances, making it easier for developers to move forward with projects.

According to sources, the code does away with individual uses such as “manufacture of inks” and replaces it with more general categories such as “limited industrial,” which will remain relevant far into the future.

The code is being hailed as a smart move for planners and developers, and by removing special provisions added for particular interest groups, makes the development process more fair by treating all communities, neighborhoods and developments the same.

The code is the result of four years of work, and will make it easier to allow for development and job creation. In addition, it will encourage transit-oriented development and allow more people to develop and grow their neighborhoods.

When businesses run into zoning problems, they can either request a variance or get the rules changed. Requesting a variance is usually a matter of petitioning the relevant government agency and perhaps making one’s case in a public hearing. If a variance is denied, one may have to fight city hall. This can be done by working with the district council member to sponsor legislation. It can also involve filing a lawsuit. Knowing which approach will be most effect isn’t always easy, and it can be a great help to work with an attorney who has knowledge of the process.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “Zoning code remaps future,” Alan Greenberger, August 22, 2012.