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March 2015 Archives

What is "spot zoning"?

Zoning ordinances often impose certain costs on landowners that cannot be recovered from the municipality. For example, a tract that is zoned for residential uses cannot be used for certain commercial uses or high-rise housing, which generally produce a higher financial return for the owner than low density uses such as single-family dwellings. In reviewing a legal challenge to a zoning ordinance or rezoning, Pennsylvania courts have balanced the public's interest in having a zoning code that guides land use for the entire municipality against the individual rights of land owners to choose the use for their properties. This balancing act has, among other consequences, caused the creation of a legal rule that makes "spot zoning" illegal.

Hotel project shows how to work with planning board and neighbors

A recently announced hotel project for an important intersection in the northeast neighborhood of Philadelphia known as "Fishtown" provides a useful case study of how a proposed development of commercial real estate must satisfy the local planning authority and the project's neighbors.

Appraisal methods for commercial real estate

Commercial real estate disputes often require one or more determinations of the value of the land at issue. While each appraiser in the Philadelphia area has his or her own unique methods, appraisal methods in general are governed by the rules and ethical standards promulgated by the American Society of Appraisers. At the heart of the appraisal discipline lie three so-called "approaches to value."

What is a zoning map "overlay"?

The Philadelphia City Council's committee on rules recently voted to allow the installation of 3-D signs on certain corners in the Center City district. 3-D signs are not allowed by the zoning regulations applicable to the Center City district, so the committee used another zoning tool to accomplish this result: approval of a zoning map overlay.

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