Hours: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Phone: 570.348.4193 ext. 4531
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.
The Zoning Ordinance, Section 445 of the City Code, is the written law that 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.
Prior to any construction job, locating a business, erecting a fence or sign, or any other project, it is important to review the Zoning Ordinance provisions to make sure you are in compliance.
Types of Uses:
There are three types of uses that regularly apply to zoning: Permitted by Right, 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 authorize zoning approval for a permit application.
- Special Exception Use
- If a use is listed as a special exception use by the Zoning Ordinance and meets all requirements, the Zoning Officer shall authorize zoning approval 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, the Zoning Officer shall authorize zoning approval 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 well-being 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.
The Zoning Officer is the official responsible for interpreting and enforcing the Zoning Ordinance. The Zoning Officer is responsible for many important duties in the City, including:
- Examining and approving permits and development plans for conformity to municipal codes, application requirements, and land use regulations.
- Performing initial, on-going, and final inspections of plans and property for conformity to Zoning and other development ordinance requirements.
- Meeting and educating lawyers, real estate brokers, architects, developers and the general public about the Zoning Ordinance and requirements within.
- Responding to and investigating complaints regarding violations of the Zoning Ordinance, property maintenance, and other City of Scranton Ordinances.
- Serving as staff of the Zoning Hearing Board, which includes posting of signs and notices.
- Identifying and recording non-conforming uses and properties within the City of Scranton.
- Preparing violation letters for noncompliance to be sent to property owners and directing the placement of Stop Work Orders.
- Preparing citations of violations of the Zoning Ordinance and presenting them to the District Magistrate Court for prosecution.
If you suspect potential violations of the Zoning Ordinance, or have any questions regarding regulations that may apply to you, please contact the Zoning Officer at 570-348-4193 x4531
Frequently Asked Questions:
- When do I need to get a zoning permit?
- To streamline the permitting process, the City of Scranton no longer requires a separate zoning permit for projects. Zoning review and approval is automatically integrated into every permit application through out online portal. If you require zoning approval for a project that does not require a building permit (such as fences, sidewalks, or swimming pools), please contact the Zoning Officer for a letter of zoning approval at 570-348-4193 x4531
- How do I find out what I can do with my property?
- You should contact the Zoning Officer weekdays at 570-348-4193 x4531 between the hours of 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM
- 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 Zoning Officer weekdays at 570-348-4193 x4531 between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:30 pm. You can also report a violation on Scranton 311 by clicking here. When reporting a complaint, provide the address of the property in question, specifics as to what you observed, and when the alleged violation occurs.
Proposed Zoning Documents:
The 2023 Proposed Zoning Ordinance was recommended by the City Planning Commission on February 22, 2023. The Ordinance has been sent to City Council, and after a 45 day review period by the Lackawanna County Regional Planning Commission, a public hearing will be held regarding adoption of the ordinance (Hearing TBA by City Council).