The New Zoning Draft Affects Commercial Properties Along Ridge Avenue

The new zoning overlays for Northwest Philadelphia go as far as governing what kind of sign you can hang above your Manayunk boutique, what your corner store can sell in Germantown, how wide your Chestnut Hill storefront can be, and where to put the trash bins for your restaurant in East Falls.  This is almost unheard of in the city, but very common in our neighboring suburbs.  I think its well overdue to crack down on tacky commercial storefront owners, and the communities are better off.

Traditionally, overlays have allow individual neighborhoods to limit or encourage specific kinds of commercial development and create a desired aesthetic.  They dictate how tall structures can be and how they should look, and guide the interaction between public and private spaces.  In many cases, they also include lengthy and specific lists of prohibited business uses.

In the proposed city zoning code, the Northwest overlays are absorbed into a new category called Neighborhood Commercial Area, or NCA, "intended to preserve the integrity of the neighborhood commercial areas and to promote and help guide appropriate commercial development." In general, the NCAs deal more broadly with the form and design of the built environment, rather than enumerating specific uses.  In many– but not all– cases, those individual prohibited uses will be left to the control of the new commercial zoning that will replace current designations.

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