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Land Use & Zoning Archives

Height limits cause problem for parcel with steep slopes


This blog has frequently written about zoning disputes involving the conversion of a property's use to residential from industrial, commercial or less intensive uses such as churches or educational institutions. The opponents to such conversions usually point to increased traffic, parking difficulties or an undesirable change in a neighborhood's character. Now, a land use dispute in south Philadelphia shows how the terrain of a parcel can arouse neighborhood opposition.

Philadelphia's Civic Design Review adds to zoning review process


Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's administration has pushed many changes to the land use review and approval process in the city, including a revised zoning code and citywide master plan, but perhaps none of these changes has as much potential for controversy as the Civic Design Review process.

City Council to consider zoning changes for new hotel


When a developer plans to redevelop a parcel in Philadelphia's central core, a change to the zoning district that contains the parcel is often required. Even if the zoning classification remains the same, a conditional use permit or other modification of the terms of the Zoning Ordinance may be required. A new hotel project near Rittenhouse Square has proven that a parcel can be rezoned to accommodate a worthwhile project.

Small driveway causes large dispute in Chestnut Hill


Sometimes, even a small land use dispute can trigger a larger controversy. The desire of a Chestnut Hill couple to build a small driveway in front of their house may trigger a series of court cases by the local community association to prevent the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Appeals from approving projects that have been rejected by the association's board.

Mansion demolition ends Philadelphia preservation dispute


Philadelphia has many old neighborhoods, and many of the buildings in these neighborhoods - whether they are residential, commercial or industrial - are imbued with historic significance. The historic significance of a particular structure has often been advanced as a reason for denying a rezoning or conditional use permit to prevent demolition of the structure. One such dispute has evidently been resolved by the destruction of the building in question after the zoning board granted the necessary permission.

What is a "nonconformity" in Philadelphia zoning?


The Philadelphia zoning code and the zoning map have changed many times over the years. These rezonings often leave individual buildings or lots that do not meet one or more requirements of the amended code or re-drawn map. The city's zoning code defines such uses and buildings as "nonconformities," and it sets limits on changes or expansions.

Philadelphia's refusal to pave road provides no basis for damages


Virtually every owner of commercial real estate in the city of Philadelphia is aware of the prohibition on the taking of private property without due compensation. This prohibition - which is contained in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution - requires municipalities to pay owners for the fair market value of any land that is taken for a public purpose. In most cases, the municipality or other government entity announces its intention to purchase - or "take" private land by commencing eminent domain proceedings, but occasionally, a municipality will take an action or will refuse to take an action that can have a significant effect on the value of land. In such cases, the land owner often begins the formal proceeding by alleging that the municipality has effected a "de facto taking," i.e., that the public action or lack thereof has deprived an owner of the value of his land and must therefore pay compensation.

City council land use decisions subject to special "prerogative"


Land use disputes in Philadelphia are often decided by the city council after a public hearing. A recent study now explains how such decisions are almost always controlled not by evidence adduced at the hearing but by a long-standing practice called "councilmanic prerogative."

Redevelopment plan stirs protests, opposition from neighbors


Approximately one year ago, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sold a 213 acre parcel of land in Marple Township to a private developer, who announced plans for construction of a mixed use-development on the site. As approval of the developer's plans moves through the township's and county's zoning process, opposition to the project is beginning to emerge.

Zoning Board listens to neighbors, denies variance for apartments


Zoning disputes frequently pit neighbors against a developer or against the city planning staff. In a recent decision involving an application for a variance to allow construction of apartments, the Philadelphia Zoning Board voted with the neighbors and against its own planning staff's recommendations.

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