Zoning

Zoning regulates land use and structure placement to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the City’s residents and businesses, and it is the first step in most projects within the City. Prior to new construction, locating a business, erecting a fence or sign or any other project, it is important to review the Zoning Ordinance provisions. The City’s Zoning Ordinance prevents overcrowding and unhealthy conditions by regulating lot sizes and setback requirements, and establishing density, building height, and buffering standards, and sets requirements for signage and parking. 

Zoning Permits

A zoning permit ensures improvements made to a property meet the requirements of our Zoning Ordinance, such as setbacks and height restrictions. Once an application and payment is received, the Zoning Officer will review it for completion and content, and will make a decision based on the Ordinance within 90 days. Certain activities and uses will require additional review by the Zoning Hearing Board, depending on the zoning district. More information about permits can be found below in the Frequently Asked Questions Section.

All applications for a Zoning Permit must contain the following information:

  • The location and dimensions of the lot, in the form of a sketch plan
  • Locations, dimensions, heights, and uses of existing and proposed structures, signs, parking, and loading areas, and locations of existing and proposed uses of areas of land, with differentiation between existing and proposed features
  • Existing and proposed number of parking spaces, in the form of a parking diagram
  • Name and address of the applicant or appellant
  • Name and address of the owner of the affected property
  • A description of the existing and proposed use(s) of the property, including numbers of dwelling units, minimum square feet of proposed dwelling units, and number of proposed business establishments, if any
  • Plans for any required buffer plantings (see Section 803 of the ordinance)
  • Additional information that may be necessary for the Zoning Officer to determine compliance with the Ordinance
  • Any other information requested on the application

Types of Uses

There are three types of uses that regularly apply to zoning: permitted uses, special exception, and conditional uses. 

  • Permitted by Right Uses. If a use is listed as permitted by right by the Zoning Ordinance and meets all requirements, the Zoning Officer shall issue a permit in response to a complete application. Additional requirements can be found in Sections 402 and 403 of the Ordinance.
  • Special Exception Use. If a use is listed as a special exception use by the Zoning Ordinance and meets all requirements, a permit shall be issued by the Zoning Officer only upon the written order of the Zoning Hearing Board after a hearing, which will ensure that the use will be consistent with the surrounding neighborhood.
  • Conditional Use. If a use is listed as a conditional use by the Zoning Ordinance and meets all requirements, a permit shall be issued by the Zoning Officer only upon the written order of the City Council, after the City Planning Commission has been given an opportunity to review the application. This is usually for uses that affect the wellbeing of the entire City.

In addition, an applicant may request a variance if a proposed use does not conform with the Zoning Ordinance, and the Ordinance creates an undue hardship upon the applicant. According to the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, the applicant must prove the following findings for a variance request:

  • That there are unique physical circumstances or conditions, including irregularity, narrowness, or
    shallowness of lot size or shape, or exceptional topographical or other physical conditions peculiar to the particular property and that the unnecessary hardship is due to such conditions and not the
    circumstances or conditions generally created by the provisions of the zoning ordinance in the
    neighborhood or district in which the property is located;
  • That because of such physical circumstances or conditions, there is no possibility that the property can be developed in strict conformity with the provisions of the zoning ordinance and that the authorization of a variance is therefore necessary to enable the reasonable use of the property;
  • That such unnecessary hardship has not been created by the appellant;
  • That the variance, if authorized, will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood or district in which the property is located, nor substantially or permanently impair the appropriate use or
    development of adjacent property, nor be detrimental to the public welfare and
  • That the variance, if authorized, will represent the minimum variance that will afford relief and will
    represent the least modification possible of the regulation in issue.

For more information about the Zoning Hearing Board, please refer to Article I of the Zoning Ordinance, or visit the Zoning Hearing Board page by clicking here.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When do I need to get a zoning permit? A zoning permit is required for: a change in use of land or structures; the construction, improvement, or alteration of any new buildings, additions, decks or porches, and accessory structures such as swimming pools, sheds, and garages which have a fair market value exceeding $500; the erection or alteration of all signs as specified in the Zoning Ordinance.  This is done to ensure improvements meet the requirements of our Zoning Ordinance, such as setbacks and height restrictions. To apply for a zoning permit, click here.
  • What’s the difference between a building permit & zoning permit? A zoning permit is required to ensure that structures are built and placed in conformance with the local zoning ordinance. A building permit is required to ensure its structure or repair is built in a safe manner in accordance with building codes (ICC 2018).
  • Who is responsible for applying for a Permit? The property owner is responsible for obtaining a building and/or zoning permit. The property owner may appoint an authorized agent to apply for the permit, such as a contractor.
  • How do I find out what I can do with my property? You should contact the Acting Zoning Officer weekdays at 570-348-4280 between the hours of 10:00 am and 4:30 p.m.
  • What are the setbacks for swimming pools? Eight (8) feet is the required setback. Affidavits are available if your neighbor agrees for you to construct it less than 8 feet (see section 403.14 of zoning ordinance, page 4-36)  
  • Is a fence required for a pool? Yes. A 4 foot fence is required.  
  • What is the setback for a fence (other than fences for pools)? Fences can be constructed on the lot line. (See Section 403.5.d of the Zoning Ordinance, pages 4-30 to 4-31) 6 ½ feet in rear / 4 feet in front yard  
  • What are the setbacks for the construction of decks and sheds? Setbacks are five (5) feet. Affidavits are available if your neighbor agrees for you to construct it less than 5 feet. (see pages 3-20 through 3-25 of the zoning ordinance).
  • What if I cannot meet all of the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance? A zoning variance may be requested from the Zoning Hearing Board. The purpose of the Board is to hear requests for relief by property owners or tenants from any section of the Zoning Ordinance. To apply to appear before the Zoning Hearing Board or for more information, click here.
  • What happens if someone violates the Zoning Ordinance? When a complaint is filed with the City Planning and Zoning office, a zoning officer will inspect the property to verify the complaint. If any of the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance are being violated, the officer will send a certified letter to the property owner and/or lessee indicting the nature of the violation and ordering the action necessary to correct it. If a violation continues, the matter is filed with the district magistrate’s office for a hearing.
  • Who do I call with a zoning complaint or question? Call the Acting Zoning Officer weekdays at 570-348-4280 between the hours of 10:00 am and 4:30 p.m. When calling with a complaint, it is helpful to be able to provide the office with the address of the property, specifics as to what you observed and when the alleged violation occurs.

Proposed Zoning Documents

Ordinance presented to City Council for Adoption 2/22. A Public Hearing was held on 3/1/2022 City Council Chambers. Ordinance is currently tabled pending further review and hearings.

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