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How to Appeal a Zoning Board Decision 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

If the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) refuses or refers your zoning/use registration application, you have 30 days to appeal that administrative ruling to the City of Philadelphia’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) in order to obtain a variance from the Philadelphia Zoning Code.

The ZBA hears appeals of decisions based on Title 14 of the Philadelphia Code, known as the Philadelphia Zoning Code.

  • If a use or proposed plan does not meet the requirements of the Philadelphia Zoning Code, a Notice of Refusal of Permit will be issued by L&l. In these cases, you are filing an appeal and are seeking a “variance” from the requirements of the Zoning Code.
  • In some situations, proposed uses meet the minimum requirements of the Philadelphia Zoning Code, but require special review and approval from the ZBA. L&l will issue a Referral to the ZBA. In these cases, you are seeking a “special exception” for the proposed use.
  • If a person is 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:

  • Your application for a zoning/use registration permit has been refused.
  • Your case has been referred to ZBA for consideration of a special exception.
  • You wish to appeal a permit issued or any decision rendered by L&I.

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. You must first determine if you need an attorney to represent you because in some cases they are required. Here are some examples:

  • An individual may appear before the ZBA in person or be represented by an attorney authorized to practice in Pennsylvania.
  • A corporation, including nonprofit corporations and limited liability companies, must be represented by an attorney authorized to practice in Pennsylvania.
  • A partnership may appear before the ZBA by one of its partners with written authorization from the general or managing partner or by an attorney authorized to practice in Pennsylvania.

What Will It Cost?

You did not think this would be free, did you? To secure an appeal, you must pay a filing fee to the ZBA. The filing fee will be listed on your refusal or referral issued by L&I.

The fee to appeal varies by property:

  • 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)

Our team has helped countless individuals and businesses appeal zoning board decisions and can help you make your vision a reality. At Nochumson P.C., we are more than legal counsel. We are people serving our neighbors and community in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Knowing that real communication between real people can help lead to real positive results, our team of attorneys are available 24/7 to help answer your legal questions and to fight for you with skill and fortitude, whatever the case may be. When you hire us, you can expect a sensible and cost-effective approach to legal counsel. We think fast, think ahead, and get things done. Contact us today or call us at (215) 399-1346 to see how we can represent you.