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What Are The Top 5 Zoning Challenges For Businesses In Philadelphia? How Our Zoning Lawyers Can Help

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Running a business in Philadelphia comes with many rewards, but it also comes with complex zoning regulations that business owners must navigate. Philadelphia zoning laws dictate where and how you can operate, so it's crucial to understand these laws to avoid issues. Here are the top 5 zoning challenges businesses in Philadelphia face and how an experienced zoning lawyer can help. 

Our team of zoning attorneys has 35+ years of experience in zoning law, and has advised clients navigating zoning permits, variances, and code. Call Davis Bucco & Makara today at 610-238-0880 for more information. 

1. Obtaining Proper Zoning Permits

To operate in Philadelphia, you must obtain the proper zoning permits and approvals from the Department of Licenses and Inspections. This includes zoning permits, use registration permits, and variances. The zoning permit application process can be complex, with specific rules on public notification and eligibility. A Philadelphia zoning lawyer understands all the zoning permit requirements and can advise you on the best approach. They can also represent your business in the application process to increase approval odds.

2. Complying With Use and Dimensional Requirements

Philadelphia has zoning codes that dictate the allowed uses and dimensional standards in each zoning district, like height limits, floor area ratio, and setback requirements. It's easy to overlook these technical specifications when selecting a location. A zoning attorney can review your business plan and proposed location to ensure it complies with Philadelphia's zoning codes from the start. This prevents wasted time and money on a non-compliant site.

3. Navigating Overlay Zoning Districts

In addition to base zoning, Philadelphia has special overlay districts that add extra zoning rules in certain areas, like design standards and use restrictions. Common overlays include the /CDO (Chestnut Street Design Overlay), /TOD (Transit-Oriented Development Overlay), and /SP (Shopping Plazas Overlay). A lawyer well-versed in Philadelphia's overlay districts can guide you through these nuanced regulations.

4. Avoiding Non-Conforming Uses

A non-conforming use is one that was allowed when initiated but is now prohibited under current zoning. Non-conforming uses can't be expanded and face substantial limitations. It's important to understand current zoning to avoid investing in a property or activity that is now non-conforming. A zoning attorney can review your plans and steer you away from potential non-conforming uses.

5. Appealing Zoning Decisions

If your zoning permit application gets denied or if you receive a notice of violation, a zoning lawyer can be invaluable. They can identify grounds for appeal and represent your business through the appeals process. This provides the best chance of overturning unfavorable zoning decisions.

How a Zoning Lawyer Can Help

  • Advise on zoning codes and requirements

  • Handle zoning permit and variance applications

  • Ensure your property or project complies with zoning

  • Navigate overlay zoning districts

  • Avoid non-conforming use issues

  • Appeal unfavorable zoning decisions

Having an experienced Philadelphia zoning attorney in your corner provides a major advantage when dealing with Philadelphia's complex zoning regulations. They make the process smoother, minimize risks and help avoid missteps that lead to delays, fines and shutdowns. For zoning help tailored to your business's situation, consult a Philadelphia zoning lawyer.

Frequently Asked Questions About Zoning for Philadelphia Businesses

1. What are the main zoning districts in Philadelphia?

The main zoning districts are Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Special Purpose. Each district has specific use and dimensional regulations.

2. How can I check the zoning of a property in Philadelphia?

You can lookup zoning using the City of Philadelphia's zoning maps available online or check with the Department of Licenses and Inspections.

3. Do I need a permit to change the use of a commercial property?

Yes, you need a use registration permit any time the use of a commercial property changes in Philadelphia.

4. What are the penalties for zoning violations in Philadelphia?

Violations can result in fines up to $2,000 per offense. Serious or repeated violations may also be met with cease operations orders.

5. How long does it take to get a zoning permit in Philadelphia?

Simple zoning permit decisions take 4-6 weeks. More complex variances can take 3-6 months for a decision.

Choosing the Right Zoning Lawyer for Your Case 

Philadelphia zoning laws can be frustrating and complex. You don’t need to navigate these obstacles alone. Reach out to our experienced team atl Davis Bucco & Makara by calling 610-238-0880