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What role does zoning play in building or buying a property?

Philadelphia is a very old city whose layout and structure largely reflects the lack of planning common in the early development of the East Coast of the United States. At one time, development and new construction occurred whenever and wherever someone wanted it to, but eventually, local lawmakers realized careful planning was necessary.

These days, anyone who wants to build or even modify an existing building will likely need the approval of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission or the support of the Zoning Board of Adjustment if they want to use a property in a manner for which it does not currently have the right zoning.

How does zoning benefit the community?

Zoning and municipal planning now guide most major changes to communities and existing properties throughout the greater Philadelphia area. Zoning laws control how a property owner can utilize a specific property, whether the intent is industrial production or residential rentals.

Proper zoning can make a municipal area more livable for residents, easier to commute through for workers and more pleasant or safe for visitors. Zoning involves authorizing only certain kinds of use for real estate in a particular area. For example, zoning rules will prohibit the creation of a meat rendering plant in close proximity to residential properties or a school.

Zoning helps create order by concentrating specific kinds of properties in specific areas. Proper zoning can increase property values and contribute to community development. However, as someone hoping to renovate a property, construct a building or start a business, you may have zoning concerns that impact the financial viability of your business.

You should always check on zoning before purchasing real estate

Whether you intend to purchase an existing structure and retrofit it to meet your needs or build an entirely new edifice, the zoning for the property should guide your decision about where to do so.

The easiest and simplest method for acquiring commercial or multiple-unit residential real estate is to purchase a property already zoned for your intended use. If you find a property that is ideal in all ways but in its zoning, you may be able to ask for a variance.

Permits and approval are often necessary for big changes

If you want to redesign the interior, tear down and rebuild a structure or add a new facade to an existing building, you will have to meet building codes and obtain permits and approval throughout the process. In some cases, before you begin any construction, you will need to ask for a change in zoning.

That process could require you to attend a public hearing about the construction to receive feedback from the community. The process is often lengthy, but it helps protect the interests of existing property owners and ensures that changes made to local properties won't negatively impact others who live or own property nearby.

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Kenneth L. Baritz & Associates, P.C.
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Philadelphia, PA 19110

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