Building, Housing & Zoning Regulations
PERMITTING - Most people begin the development process by talking to the staff of the Department of Building, Housing and Codes Enforcement located in the Municipal Building, 401 E. Gay Street, 610-696-1773. This is where applications for building permits, electrical permits and plumbing permits originate and where zoning interpretations are made. The staff will work with you to help you understand the review process and help you determine up-front what requirements must be met to move through the approval process. It is important you be as specific as possible with all questions in order for the Department to give you the correct information. *Permits are not available on-line*
No construction can begin until a building permit has been issued.
Effective April 20, 2004 the Borough is in compliance and enforcing Act #45, the Uniform Construction Code of Pennsylvania.
ZONING DISTRICTS - One of the first considerations you may have prior to moving forward on a project is whether the location of your proposed project is zoned for the use and development or expansion you want to do under the Borough's Zoning Ordinance.
Every property in the Borough is within a zoning district. The zoning districts are as follows:
- Neighborhood Conservation Districts (1,2,3)
- Town Center District
- Commercial Services District
- Industrial District, Institutional District
- Mixed Use District
Within those districts there are additional overlay zones:
- Historic District
- Flood Plain Conservation District
- Height Option and Professional Overlay District
- Height District
- Retail Overlay District
It is important to verify which zoning regulations apply to your proposed location. The Borough's Zoning Ordinance contains provisions for permitted uses, setbacks, density, parking, height and other pertinent information. Chapter 112
ZONING APPEALS, ORDINANCE AMENDMENTS, INTERPRETATIONS,
Applicants who cannot comply with the Zoning Code may file an appeal seeking a variance from any provision of the Zoning Code. The rules and procedures for filing an appeal are available in the Department of Building, Housing and Code Enforcement. The application is reviewed by the Zoning Board for conformance with the comprehensive plan for the Borough of West Chester and compliance with the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, which outlines the criteria for zoning variances. The Board makes its decision within 45 days of the hearing. The process takes approximately three months. Residents and property owners within 500 feet of the proposed development are mailed a notice and a legal advertisement is placed in the local newspaper at the applicant's expense.
Ordinance interpretations are made by the Zoning Officer. If an applicant disagrees with the interpretation for a given application, an interpretation appeal may be filed to the Zoning Board through the Zoning Office.
SITE PLAN REVIEW
Minor Site Plan Review - Minor site development is reviewed and approved administratively by the staff of the Department of Building and Housing.
Types of development that qualify for minor site review:
- New parking areas for fewer than 3 cars
- Construction of a temporary parking area or paving of an existing parking area
- One or two family dwellings
- Changes in use of existing buildings
Applications must be submitted to the Zoning Officer with all zoning data and calculations clearly shown on the plans. Two (2) sets of complete site plans are required. These should be electronically submitted when feasible. Under normal conditions, administrative review takes approximately two (2) weeks. Once you receive approval and all conditions are met, you may file and pay for your building permit.
All Site plans require a Storm Water Management Plan and review in accordance with Chapter 94. Questions about this plan should be addressed to the Zoning Officer.
Major Site Plan Review - Major site plans are reviewed by the Planning Commission and then Borough Council. The Planning Commission is appointed by the Borough Council to make recommendations on major site plans, subdivisions and conditional use. Planning Commission meetings are held on the last Tuesday of each month. Complete submissions are required a minimum of two weeks in advance of this meeting to the Department of Building, Housing and Codes Enforcement. The Planning Commission holds a work session meeting on the Tuesday preceding the regular monthly meeting. This meeting does not include public comment or input on plans.
Types of development that require Major Site Plan and/or Subdivisions Review include any of the following activities:
- The improvement of one (1) lot or two (2) or more contiguous lots, tracts or parcels of land for any purpose involving a group of two (2) or more residential or nonresidential buildings, whether proposed initially or cumulatively or a single nonresidential building on a lot or lots regardless of the number of occupants by means of or for the purpose of creating streets, common areas, leaseholds, condominiums, building groups or other features.
- A subdivision or reverse subdivision of land.
- Development in accordance with Section 503 (1.1) of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, as amended through December 14, 1992.
Applications must be submitted to the Department of Building, Housing and Codes Enforcement with seven (7) complete sets of site plans. Plans must also be submitted to other agencies for review. These agencies provide comment for consideration by the Borough Planning Commission and Borough Council. The Building and Housing Department reviews and processes the applications for submission and schedules an item on the Planning Commission agenda.
Note: Property owners adjacent to the proposed developments are notified by the applicant when the plan will be presented to the Planning Commission.
An Engineering review fee will be assessed to cover Borough costs.
OTHER TYPES OF PERMITS
Any outdoor signage for your business must be issued a sign permit. To apply for a permit, stop by the Department of Building, Housing and Codes Enforcement.
You will need the following:
- letter of permission from the owner;
- indication on plan of all existing and proposed signs;
- computation of the following:
- sign area of each existing and proposed sign;
- sign area, height, and setback of each existing and proposed free-standing sign;
- sketch of the proposed sign(s) indicating dimensions, materials, source of illumination (if any), and construction method.
Restaurants may apply for an outdoor seating permit issued by the Department of Building, Housing and Codes Enforcement in accordance with Chapter 90A.
HISTORIC DISTRICT REGULATIONS
No permanent sign or other structure within the West Chester Historic District may be constructed, altered or otherwise changed, in whole or in part, nor may the exterior architectural character of the structure be altered until after an application for a building permit has been fully reviewed by the Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB). After a certificate of appropriateness is recommended by the HARB, it is reviewed by Borough Council for approval. For additional information on the Historic District and HARB regulations, contact the Department of Building, Housing and Codes Enforcement. See Zoning Ordinance Chapter 112, section 112-50.