Disclaimer: Changes are made to the zoning permits and requirements frequently. This article is based off of the current information as of November 23, 2022.
Zoning Permit Type 1: Change the Use of a Property
This type of permit is needed to change the use of a property or part of a property. You may need this permit to increase or decrease the number of residential units on a property, change a commercial tenant space to a residential unit or new business, start a daycare center, establish a retail sales, business office, or restaurant, or to convert a warehouse into artist studios. It is not necessary to acquire one of these permits if the established use of a property remains the same, even if there is a new owner or tenant. You will be granted a permit as long as your proposal meets code requirements, if not, you will need a notable exception or variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. However, zoning is only one part of the permitting and licensing process. It may be required for you to obtain construction permits, occupancy certificates, safety certifications, or licenses to operate legally or complete your project. Something to note is that properties in the floodplain may require special documents or a review meeting.
Zoning Permit Type 2: New Construction or Additions
To create new buildings or additions in the city of Philadelphia, you need zoning approval. Zoning approval is required to get a Building Permit. As long as your proposal meets the code requirements, you will be granted permits as a matter of right. If your proposal does not meet the requirements, you will need to obtain a special exception or variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. For smaller-scale projects like additions to single-family homes, the Department of Licenses and Inspections can review zoning and building code requirements at the same time. In order to do this, you must also file a Building Permit application. For larger projects, like new construction of apartments or mixed-use buildings, you should complete the zoning process before submitting your building permit application. Development Services can also assist you in navigating these projects. If you are looking to add a shed or similar accessory structure to your one/two family dwelling, you may not need zoning approval. You can skip the zoning permit process if the accessory structure has an area of less than 130 square feet, has a height of fewer than 15 feet, is located in the rear yard, and does not store motor vehicles. Additionally, properties that are located within the floodplain may require special documents or a review meeting.
Zoning Permit Type 3: Create, Change, or Remove Parking
A Zoning Permit is required to create new off-street parking. If your development project includes parking, such as new construction or an addition, you may include the request for parking on the same zoning application. The Department of Licenses and Inspections issues the approvals for parking spaces located on private property. You will be granted permits as a matter of your right, so long as your proposal meets code requirements. In the case that your proposal does not meet the code requirements, you’ll need a special exception or variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Zoning Permit Type 4: Signage Permit
To install signs in the city of Philadelphia, you must first obtain zoning approval from the Department of Licenses and Inspections. The Philadelphia Zoning Code includes rules for the number of signs, the type of signs, the size, location, height, and illumination or lighting. There are types of signs that do not require zoning permits, those include window signs installed in up to two windows or doors that do not take up more than 20% of the transparent glazed area of a door or window, signs located inside of a building that is over 18 inches from, or on more than a 45-degree angle to any window or opening, digital and video screens on outside equipment such as fuel pumps and ATMs up to 1 square foot, signs that give directions and are under 10 sq. ft. in the area and under 7 ft. in height, and temporary real estate signs. As long as the proposed sign meets certain standards, it is unnecessary to submit plans. You can check to see if your sign complies with phila.gov’s EZ Sign Standard for Zoning.
Zoning Permit Type 5: Lot Line Relocation Permit
A lot adjustment permit is needed to combine lots, split a lot into multiple lots, or reconfigure the property lines between adjoining lots. The number of permits needed for your project will be determined by how many lots you start with. The Department of Licenses and Inspections will determine this during their review. As long as your proposal meets code requirements, you will be granted permits as a matter of right. In the case that your proposal doesn’t meet code requirements, you will need a special exception or a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. It is important to know the legal boundaries of your property, which are identified on the deed. You can also hire a licensed surveyor to check the exact location of property lines.
Zoning Permit Type 6: Complete Demolition
To demolish an entire building or structure in the city of Philadelphia, you need zoning approval. Zoning approval is a required file to obtain a Complete Demolition Permit. Demolition and zoning permits are issued by the Department of Licenses and Inspections. If the property in question is in the floodplain it may require special documents or a review meeting.
Zoning Permit Type 7: Site Clearing or Earth Disturbance
A Zoning Permit for site clearing or earth disturbance is needed for projects that only involve site clearing and earth disturbance work. To be a qualifying site clearing project, the site must be on a lot that is 5,000 square feet or more in area. Site clearing includes removing or cutting trees, grubbing roots, and filling or removing building foundations. Lots that have a principal use of single-family residence, two-family residence, or urban agriculture are excluded from site clearing. Earth disturbance occurs in the Steep Slope Protection Area, exceeding 1,400 square feet with slopes that are greater than 15%. The Wissahickon Watershed Overlay is exceeding 500 square feet and excepts sites designated as Category 5 on the Impervious Coverage Map. If additions or any new construction are involved in your project, you may not utilize this site-clearing permit application. Landscaping/Tree Preservation plans and associated documents have to be included with your Zoning Permit application for the new construction or addition. All zoning permits must be issued through the Department of License and Inspections. If the property in question is in the floodplain, it may require special documents or a review meeting.
For any questions about zoning permits reach out to us to set up a meeting with one of our architects!