Appealing Zoning Decisions in Philadelphia

Written by: Alan Nochumson

What are the steps to appeal a zoning board decision in Philadelphia? Our team can guide you through the process.

For those in real estate development in Philadelphia, turning your dream into reality includes a great idea, solid planning, the appropriate financing, and, sometimes the most arduous step, approval from the city. Even the best-laid plans can lead nowhere if you do not secure the approval of various city agencies — and obtaining these permits may take many steps. In this blog, we discuss how you can obtain special governmental relief for real estate development projects in Philadelphia.

What You Need to Know to Begin the Appeal Process

Appealing zoning decisions happens with two governmental agencies: the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) and the City of Philadelphia’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). L&I ensures that buildings are up to code, while the ZBA deals specifically with appeals from administrative rulings made by L&I within the city of Philadelphia’s Department of Planning and Development. Through the zoning appeal process, you can challenge decisions from L&I. 

The zoning appeal process starts by filing a zoning permit application with L&I. If L&I refuses or refers your zoning permit application, you then have 30 days to appeal that refusal or refusal to the ZBA, so you can obtain a variance or special exception. The ZBA evaluates zoning appeals based on the Philadelphia Zoning Code (Title 14 of the Philadelphia Code). 

Furthermore, if you are generally aggrieved by an administrative ruling rendered by L&l, you may file an appeal against the actions or interpretations of L&l to seek to have the decision of L&l reviewed by the ZBA.

Who Can Appeal?

In order to be qualified to appeal an administrative ruling issued by L&I based upon the Philadelphia Zoning Code, you must fall into one of these categories:

  • A zoning permit application has already been refused
  • A zoning permit application is under consideration for a special exemption
  • You have a zoning permit or decision from L&I that you want to appeal

What You Will Need

It is imperative that you understand the materials you will need in order to appeal the administrative ruling to the ZBA, or you will risk the danger of having your hearing postponed. Be sure to prepare your application for appeal or special exemption, the Project Information Form, a signed version of the applicable Notice of Refusal or Referral, and the filing fee.

An optional, but helpful, additional piece is an attorney. Depending on what your zoning appeal is, it might benefit you to have an attorney present to navigate the intricacies of your zoning appeal and the zoning appeal process in general. Here are some examples:

  • An attorney authorized in Pennsylvania can appear before the ZBA to represent a client, or the person can represent themselves
  • An attorney authorized in Pennsylvania must represent corporations (including nonprofit corporations and limited liability companies) and they cannot represent themselves
  • An attorney authorized in Pennsylvania can represent a set of partners, otherwise one of the partners must provide a written authorization form on behalf of other partners

What Will It Cost?

To secure a zoning appeal, you must pay a filing fee to the ZBA. If the L&I issues a Notice of Refusal or Notice of Referral, the filing fee will be indicated there. There are different fees for each property type: 

  • Existing one-or-two-family dwellings — $125
  • New one-or-two-family dwellings — $300
  • All other properties — $300
  • Administrative review — $200
  • Reposting of notices — $65
  • Accelerated hearing — $750 per property (maximum of $2,250)

Handling zoning appeals can be difficult if you have never handled one before. Our team has helped countless individuals and businesses successfully navigate the zoning appeal process, and can help you make your vision a reality. We are available 24/7 to help answer your legal questions and to fight for you with skill and fortitude, whatever the case may be. Contact us today to see how we can represent you.