Zoning Vs. Building Permits

The Typology of Permits

 

Property development can be complicated. And if you are new to the world of city regulation and permits it may be difficult to predict exactly what you need in order to successfully, and legally complete a project.

 

The typology of permits is generally broken down into two categories; Building and Zoning. This is because city regulations are also separated by these terms.

 

The Zoning Code

 

The Zoning Code is the set of regulations which dictate how certain property can be used or developed. The first layer of this code is the actual zoning typology, which you may be familiar with- residential multi-family, commercial mixed-use, single-family attached (RM-1, CMX-2, SFA). The zoning classification is given by the city and applied to whole areas of land. So if your property is CMX-2.5 it’s likely that your whole block or several surrounding blocks are also zoned this way.

 

The zoning classification of a property dictates which set of rules in the code apply to the property. For example. If your property is RM-1 there is a different formula to calculate the permitted density than there is for a CMX-2 or CMX-2.5 property.

 

As you have probably guessed, these technicalities can get quite complicated. But the important thing to keep in mind if you are a property owner is that you are not bound by these rules. You have the right to request special permission for anything you want.

 

For more information on obtaining and Zoning Variance see Permits Made Simple.

 

The Building Code

 

Unlike the Zoning Code which applies different rules to different types of properties, the Building Code is applied to all properties equally. Generally, the building code is applied to dimensional standards and best practices for the construction phase of a project.

 

Another time you may need to reference this body of information is during the application process to become familiar with the criteria against which your plans will be evaluated.

 

The Process

 

Typically, for any kind of new construction, or major renovation project, you will need both of these permits. The Zoning Permit will always come first as the use of the property must be approved before the plans for that use can be evaluated and approved.

 

Philly Zoning Team
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