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Zoning 101: Community involvement – will this be on the test? p2

6/29/2014 | Real Estate Blog

The development process in any city should include input from the neighborhood. In Philadelphia, that input often comes from Registered Community Organizations. The city registers RCOs during June, and the registration is good for two years. Right now, there are more than 200 RCOs in Philly, and each has a say in developers’ requests for zoning variances.

The organizations approve or oppose a developer’s request to the Zoning Board of Adjustments, not necessarily the original application. A proposal will not go to the ZBA unless the city has denied the developer’s application for a variance or special exception.

As a representative from the Philadelphia City Planning Commission explained at a recent presentation, a developer needs a variance or exception under certain circumstances. There is no need for one if the developer can build on the site “by right” — that is, replacing like with like; putting a new industrial building on a site zoned for industrial use.

A zoning variance becomes necessary, though, when a developer’s project does not match what the land is zoned for. Building a hotel on property zoned for residential use requires a variance.

An exception is a little different. A developer must ask for an exception if the project could have a negative impact on the community. If the project will bring more noise, more traffic or other hazards to a community, the city must approve an exception before construction can start.

When the developer requests the exception, he or she must prove to the city that the exception will not have a negative impact on the community. The process does not stop there, though.

We will finish this up in our next post.

Source: UC Review, “Philadelphia Planning Commission gives the ‘skinny’ on zoning and the RCO process,” Nicole Contosta, June 25, 2014