Mastering Zoning Permits Maze in Philadelphia: A Step-by-Step Guide to Obtaining a Zoning Permit in Pennsylvania

Trying to figure out through the map of zoning rules can be a nightmare for property owners and contractors alike. But fear not – this handy legal article will help you get a head start to successfully get your Philadelphia zoning permit.

When Do You Need a Zoning Permit? What’s In, What’s Out? 

If you’re contemplating changes to your property, the first question is whether you need a zoning permit. Here are some general guidelines: 

  • You Do Need a Permit For: 
    • Altering the property’s use
    • Adjusting lot lines
    • Installing signs
    • New construction or adding onto existing structures
    • Establishing parking areas. 
    • Conducting complete demolition.
    • Site clearing or earth disturbance. 
  • You Don’t Need a Permit For: 
    • Alterations to existing structures that don’t affect area, height, floor space, or current legal use. 
    • Fences meeting height limits. 
    • Swimming pools on one- or two-family dwelling properties. 
    • Small canopies or awnings for one- or two-family dwellings. 
    • Limited-size sheds, playhouses, etc., within specific parameters. 
    • Concrete driveways and patios. 
    • Decks up to a certain height.

Meet Atlas: Discover Your Zoning

Unveil your property’s zoning code and regulations by navigating Atlas, your go-to resource for current zoning information. Moreover, delve into the Zoning Quick Reference Guide to deepen your understanding of the zoning regulations that shape your property’s potential. With these tools at your disposal, you can navigate Philadelphia’s zoning landscape with confidence.

Summoning Champions: Who Can Apply?

Getting a zoning permit in Philadelphia doesn’t have to be a solo mission – property owners can empower others to take charge of the application. Authorized agents like tenants, architects, attorneys, contractors, and professional permit expediters are all eligible to apply on your behalf. Hiring a legal expert means that they know the ins and outs of zoning rules and can put together a complete, compliant application package. Lean on our expertise to steer your project to approval while you focus on big picture plans. 

Unlocking the Zoning Portal: Key Requirements for Success

A Comprehensive Application

A complete zoning permit application is the first step to approval. Clearly outline the full scope of work proposed so reviewers understand your project. Provide current owner information or list the major stakeholders if owned by a non-individual entity. Applicants who recently purchased the property need to include documentation like settlement sheets or deeds. Always use the legal property address from the Office of Property Assessment (OPA), even if it differs from your mailing address. Tenants should supply a copy of their valid lease agreement to confirm they are authorized applicants. Following these guidelines shows you have all your ducks in a row right from the start. A knowledgeable agent can ensure your application has everything Philadelphia zoning officials need to green light your plans.

Navigating the Plan Requirements: From Basic to Complex

Plan-Free Permits

Some basic zoning permits don’t require submitted plans, like sign changes or use adjustments that qualify for Philadelphia’s EZ Standard form. This streamlined process saves applicants time and resources.

When Plans are Mandatory

More complex work like new structures, additions, lot adjustments, parking changes, or non-EZ sign permits must include detailed site plans. These documents are crucial for reviewers to understand your project and ensure zoning compliance.

Plan Particulars

All plans should adhere to requirements like minimum 11″ x 17″ sheets, proper scaling, and grayscale printing. Include the required copies, limit sheets to conserve resources, and follow dimension guidelines. Architectural and engineering plans have different specific scales. An expert can ensure your custom plans meet expectations.

Unveiling Your Vision: Creating Comprehensive Site Plans

Site plans are vital for zoning reviewers to understand proposed projects. These must accurately depict property boundaries, dimensions, existing structures, parking areas, rights-of-way, easements, and more. Also indicate locations of decks, balconies, and access points. Plans should show yard dimensions, landscaping details, bicycle parking, heritage tree locations, and any removals. Sign sizes and exact placement must be illustrated. Precise site plans with proper scaling and all required elements help verify zoning compliance.

Elevation or section plan

In addition to site plans, projects involving new structures, additions, or signs require elevation or section plans. These supplemental diagrams depict critical vertical details. Elevations must accurately display building heights, roof lines, ground levels, and architectural features like parapets. Below-grade aspects like parking and trash storage visible on section plans are also important for zoning compliance. Proposed signs should be shown at their actual size and location.

Applying Online and In Person

For convenience, permits can be applied for electronically using Philadelphia’s eCLIPSE system. Those needing assistance can schedule a virtual appointment for guidance. Additionally, one can visit In-person to the Permit and License Center.

Budgeting Your Vision: Estimating Costs

Filing and permit fees vary based on project scale. Check Philadelphia’s zoning fee summary charts for estimates before applying. The nonrefundable filing fee gets credited later if approved.Other Potential Costs such as Administrative zoning reviews, conditional permits, and more may apply depending on your unique project.

Claiming Your Rights: The Appeal Avenue

In the event that your application is met with a Notice of Refusal or Notice of Referral, remember that you possess the avenue of appeal to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. It’s crucial to note that your right to appeal these notices stands for a duration of 30 days from the date of issuance. It’s important to understand that this timeframe is non-negotiable, and extensions aren’t applicable.

Staying Ahead of Renewal Guidelines and Expiry

Stay attentive to renewal prerequisites and permit expiration timelines. Zoning Permits linked to construction have a three-year validity if construction begins on site. Use Permits expire in six months if activity doesn’t initiate. For Conditional Zoning Permits, validity extends for a year from issuance. Awareness of these timeframes maintains your permit’s activity and syncs with your project schedule.

Extending Horizons: Permit Renewal

Apply to extend your zoning permit starting 3 months prior to expiration. Extensions tack an additional year onto the original end date, no matter when granted. So if your permit expires on June 1, 2023, an extension pushes the new expiration to June 1, 2024. Extensions can be conveniently requested online via Philadelphia’s eCLIPSE portal or by visiting the Permit and License Center. But don’t wait until the last minute – apply with ample time to get approved.

From Vision to Reality

Navigating Philadelphia’s zoning landscape takes extensive knowledge and attention to detail. Understanding your property’s zoning, assembling a stellar application, meeting plan requirements, estimating costs, and leveraging extensions or appeals ensures your project stays on track. With the right expertise and preparation of our Attorney, your property plans can smoothly progress from proposal to permitted reality.


From conducting thorough research to crafting compelling arguments, our Attorney is adept at presenting your case before zoning boards and municipal authorities. We possess an in-depth understanding of the ever-evolving legal framework surrounding land use and zoning, enabling them to anticipate challenges and devise effective strategies for permit approval.


Premier Legal Solutions LLC provides thorough legal advice on all aspects of obtaining a zoning permit. We aim to assist business owners in navigating this legal route with confidence and simplicity. Contact us at  267-245-0649 or email us at to schedule a consultation and take the first step in securing your zoning license.