This blog has frequently written about the conflict between groups that wish to preserve Philadelphia’s historic buildings and private developers who want to demolish or significantly modify such structures. The focus of such disputes is usually the conflict between the supposed economic benefit that attaches to residential and commercial real estate development and the unique culture represented by the city’s finite supply of historic buildings. But other issues can cause similar disputes. In a case arising on the Main Line, weather has become the issue that divides two sides of a land use dispute.
The project in question is a private school in Lower Merion, but any building that covers a large area can cause similar concerns to arise. The dispute was raised anew at a meeting of the Lower Merion Zoning Board that was held one day after severe weather dumped several inches of snow and rain on Philadelphia and caused the streets near the school to flood; at least two homes were deprived of gas and electricity for the night. The school wants to add more than 12,000 square feet of building area, and residents are concerned that the increase in impervious surface area will exacerbate the flooding problems.
The village zoning code permits a maximum of 21 percent of a site to consist of an impervious surface, such as a building or a paved parking lot. The proposed expansion would increase the impervious coverage from 33.12 to 33.56 percent of the school site. Attorneys representing the neighbors at the hearing called attention to provisions of the zoning code and other regulations that appear to limit that maximum amount of impervious surface area. The hearing was adjourned with no action being taken. The school’s plan and the water runoff problem are expected to be the subject of future hearings.
As is the case with many zoning disputes, a number of environmental factors will affect the outcome. Anyone who becomes involved in such a dispute may wish to consult an experienced real estate attorney for advice on applicable laws and regulations, the necessity for expert investigation and testimony and suggestions for strategies to achieve a favorable outcome.
Source: Mainline Media News, “Lower Merion zoning board hears concerns about stormwater runoff during latest meeting on Kohelet expansion,” Lynda Ginsparg, Feb. 26, 2016