Zoning code reform: How it will impact Manayunk

Zoning code reform doesn’t sound very sexy. But all that esoteric talk of “allowed uses” and “C2 districts” can determine how bike-friendly a city is, whether a gun shop can open in your neighborhood, or how urban farms operate. 

Zoning code reform doesn’t sound very sexy. But all that esoteric talk of “allowed uses” and “C2 districts” can determine how bike-friendly a city is, whether a gun shop can open in your neighborhood, or how urban farms operate. Philadelphia’s Zoning Code Commission is currently finalizing a whole new draft of the city’s zoning code, which will go to City Council next year. In this short series, PlanPhilly will analyze how the new code affects neighborhoods in the Northwest, including Mt. Airy, East Falls, Germantown, West Oak Lane, Manayunk, Roxborough and Chestnut Hill, including reaction to the changes by residents.

Since 1997, restaurants and cafes on Manayunk’s Main Street have not been able to expand their operations.

Meanwhile, tattoo parlors, auto repair stores, courthouses, penal institutions, drive-thrus, piercing shops, private clubs, movie theaters and dance halls — how awesomely anachronistic is the phrase “dance halls”? — haven’t been able to operate on the street, period.

The new zoning code wipes away those restrictions, which are part of the “Manayunk and Venice Island Special District Controls” in the present code.

The district controls also affect parking, building height, facades and building width, among other things. These restrictions have, no doubt, led to much back-and-forth between business owners and the Department of Licenses & Inspection. For instance, in regards to 3720 Main Street — now home to a United Artists theater, which was built after the controls were enacted — there are 161 pages of L&I decisions in the city’s records. That’s a lot of appeals.

City Council passed the legislation creating these controls in order to protect the “economic vitality and diverse character” of the area, and deal with parking shortages.

On the latter note, the new code requires that there’s one parking space for every four occupants in a restaurant on Main Street, and one for every two in any other eating and drinking establishment — a win for anyone who’s struggled to find a parking space on the weekends, but a loss for those who believe the city should advocate for less automobile use.

Conversely, Manayunk will likely be remapped as “CMX3,” a commercial mixed-use district that would require one bicycling space for every three dwelling units a building, as well as one for every 10 parking spaces in a lot. That’s a small pedal forward for bikers.

Stay tuned for more reports about the zoning code’s impact on East Falls and Roxborough from this month’s PlanPhilly zoning series. 

For more news about planning, zoning and development in Philadelphia, visit planphilly.com

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