Zoning Philadelphia RM1,RSA5,CMX2.5

5 Replies

Hi,

Had a few questions about different zoning restrictions in Philadelphia, would greatly appreciate any input. Firstly, the zoning RM1 or RSA5 both require a minimum lot width to be 15 feet & 1440 sf. Are these building requirements or simply requirements needed to switch the zoning to one of these categories. I find blocks of homes zoned in either RSA5 or RM1 that don’t have these measurements. 

Additionally, the zoning guide states “*A lot containing at least 1600 sq. ft. may be divided into lots with a minimum lot size of 800 sq. ft.” Why would anyone divide the lots this way if this would prohibit them from building on it due to the 1440sf requirement?

Lastly, regarding CMX2.5 “*Residential uses are prohibited along the ground floor frontage.” what is considered residential uses ? Can I build a fitness center for the exclusive use for the residents of that building ? Would that be a residential use ?

Many thanks, Nathan

Hi @Nathan Shultz I can put you in touch with an amazing Philly law firm that focuses on zoning issues if that would be helpful to you. Zoning is a very fluid reality in Philly with changes being made by City Counsel and the ZBA hearing tons of requests for variances and changes. As the zoning code changes, they don't require pre-existing buildings to necessarily conform if it would be a significant hardship to do so (Like tearing them down and rebuilding).

Hi @Peter Dunne thank you for posting that informative response. I don't have any specific questions for a zoning attorney I'm just in need of clarity on the general allowance for each zoning code. Like what exactly classifies non-residential on CMX2.5 etc While I am in pursuit of properties, that information is quite useful. Thanks for taking the time to answer my inquiry.
Regards Nathan

Hi

I am working on acquiring a property- the investment makes sense as a multi unit building- triplex- It is zoned RSA5- I am familiar with the process to get a variance-

My question is- I noticed other RSA5 properties in the area have 3-4 units- I pull the public records and info an do not see a variance or anything about the change in use or any permits for that matter 

Is there a place I can check if a variance was filed on a property for multi unit use?  it seems that if there was a variance the property is worth more.

Thanks!

Originally posted by @Nathan Shultz :

Hi,

Had a few questions about different zoning restrictions in Philadelphia, would greatly appreciate any input. Firstly, the zoning RM1 or RSA5 both require a minimum lot width to be 15 feet & 1440 sf. Are these building requirements or simply requirements needed to switch the zoning to one of these categories. I find blocks of homes zoned in either RSA5 or RM1 that don’t have these measurements. 

Additionally, the zoning guide states “*A lot containing at least 1600 sq. ft. may be divided into lots with a minimum lot size of 800 sq. ft.” Why would anyone divide the lots this way if this would prohibit them from building on it due to the 1440sf requirement?

Lastly, regarding CMX2.5 “*Residential uses are prohibited along the ground floor frontage.” what is considered residential uses ? Can I build a fitness center for the exclusive use for the residents of that building ? Would that be a residential use ?

Many thanks, Nathan

 Hi Nathan! Were you able to get these questions answered? I have similar and very general questions as well

Hi Neel,
I will share with you a response that was sent to me through private messaging from @Daniel Flesher regarding my question. 

"For the minimum lot width, this is usually when someone has bought many lots in an area (like a whole block) and they want to redraw the lot boundaries. The zoning guide gives minimums for what these lots should look like in terms of width and area. If you purchase a lot that is smaller than these minimums, you can still build whatever you want on it as long as it conforms to the other zoning requirements (building use, height, etc.).

For lots of a certain size (such as 1600sf), many investors find that they aren't going to be able to build a single family home (such as in RSA-5) that would be profitable because the lot is too large. Subdividing the lot into smaller lots will often prove to be more profitable. For instance, a 14x70' lot is 980sf, which is less than the normal minimum of 1,440, but is something the code allows for if I have a lot that is currently 1,960sf. Two 14x70' lots will make for two nice single-family row homes.

For the CMX2.5, ammenities to an apartment building are considered accessory spaces and still classified the same as the apartment itself (residential). However, nothing is stopping you from creating a generic "commercial space" on the first floor and then opening a fitness center where one of the requirements of being a member is to live within a certain address (such as the apartments above). But to do this you'll need to pretend it's just normal commercial work so L&I doesn't give you flak. "

Hope that helps.
Regards, Nathan

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