PlanPhilly

Zoning

    • 2010 Wharton | OCF Realty

Councilman listed as plaintiff on appeal of Point Breeze project, swears it's a mistake

A handful of Point Breeze community groups have filed a notice of appeal of a zoning board decision allowing Ori Feibush to build a 22-unit housing project at 20th and Wharton…

    • Yuri Zalzman, who has operated the Gun Range the past three years, wants to sell firearms from his shooting range / Bobby Allyn for PlanPhilly

Arguments continue over Spring Garden shooting range's right to supply and sell arms

Philadelphia’s Zoning Board of Adjustment didn’t make a decision today over whether a gun shop can open in a shooting range close to Spring Garden Street, but the debate previewed what…

    • The Gun Range is located at North Percy and Spring Garden streets. Neighbors have protested that the facility should not be allowed to sell guns. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Community groups push back against plan for gun shop in Spring Garden area

A proposal to open a gun shop near Philadelphia's Spring Garden Street is confronting a growing resistance from neighbors and community groups. The plan calls for selling weapons inside an existing…

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ABOUT ZONING

Zoning is a form of “indirect” urban design, as its rules and restrictions dictate what can be built on each parcel in most American cities. Though designers rarely write code themselves, zoning affects the urban form in many ways. Every road width and building height delivers a message to their users on how to use the public realm. In fact, zoning code is often written by engineers or lawyers as opposed to planners and designers. Zoning typically regulates land use as well as basic building dimension and design details.


Zoning codes have evolved over the years as urban planning theory and political priorities have changed. Many old zoning codes, like Philadelphia’s, are outdated and economically inefficient, and do not have the flexibility in their parcel-by-parcel designation to allow for smooth transitions to new land uses.


An entire rezoning is time-intensive and strictly adhering to outdated code can hinder development. Therefore, many cities loosen their amendment process to help landowners change the zoning code quickly, or simply ignore the code and let developers build structures that directly violate the ordinance. This explains the negative connotation surrounding the Philadelphia zoning code, which is so old that it is seen by many as a direct hindrance to progressive development that could help make the city a more world-class destination. Many developers see zoning here as an obstacle to overcome, not as standards that must be met to integrate into the surrounding community.


Many cities are experimenting with different zoning types. Some more flexible zoning forms include (1) form-based zoning, which regulates by design instead of use; (2) incentive zoning, which rewards developers for meeting certain urban design standards, and (3) performance zoning, which allows landowners to meet building goals by achieving various levels of compliance. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter created the Zoning Code Commission to begin a re-zoning process for the city. The ZCC hired two primary consultants, Clarion Associates and Duncan Associates, who submitted their recommended changes to the code language to the ZCC in September 2009.


Zoning is not used in all American cities. Houston is the largest U.S. metropolis without a zoning code in place, as citizens continue to reject efforts to implement it.

UPCOMING EVENTS IN ZONING

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