Zoning Committee Guidelines


The goal of the Dickinson Square West Zoning Committee is to provide an open conduit for residents and neighbors to hear proposed zoning applications and to provide their own thoughts, insights, and opinions on such projects.

The Zoning Committee will also serve as a platform for residents to discuss the land use, zoning and planning issues presented by their neighbors.

The Zoning Committee, a committee of Dickinson Square West Civic Association, holds monthly meetings to discuss all applications for Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) variances within our established neighborhood boundaries.

Variances are deviations from the city’s Zoning Code. Variances must be obtained from the Zoning Board.

  1. ZBA refers to DNCA for input.  Because the ZBA wants neighbors’ input on projects that require variances and whether they are suitable to the neighborhood, ZBA applicants are referred to the DNCA Zoning Committee before being heard. The Dickinson Square West Civic Association Zoning Committee holds monthly meetings as a public forum for neighborhood input, review, discussion and recommendation of approval, approval with proposed conditions or denial.  The ZBA considers the Zoning Committee recommendations, but are not bound to adhere to them. Individual citizens also have the right to appear before the Zoning Board of Adjustment and state their own support or opposition to the cases being heard.
  1. Applicant Submission.  The Dickinson Square West Zoning Committee meetings are generally held on the first Tuesday of each month.  ZBA applicants should request via email at zoning@dickinsonsquarewest.org to be scheduled at the next available Zoning Committee meeting.  A maximum of three (3) ZBA applications are heard at any committee meeting.  If the ZBA application cannot be heard before the applicant’s ZBA hearing date, a continuance should be requested of the ZBA.  If the applicant will not appear before the Zoning Committee, a letter to the ZBA is issued recommending denial until such application is submitted to the Zoning Committee for review.  The following items should be submitted in electronic format via email (to zoning@dickinsonquarewest.org) a minimum of fourteen (14) days before the subject Zoning Committee meeting:
    1. Zoning Board refusal letter, with the proposal and list of requested variances;
    2. Site Plan and/or Survey of Property, in a clear and legible format to scale;
    3. Architectural Plans, including building elevations and floor plans in a clear and legible copy to scale;
    4. Photos of the immediate structure in question;
    5. An air photo and zoning map of the immediate area; and
    6. Any other supporting documentation that is directly relevant to the application.
  2. Neighborhood Notice.  When a zoning case is sent to the Dickinson Square West Zoning Committee, the committee will distribute flyers to residents living within a block of the proposed project, describing the proposed project, variances requested and the date, time and location of the Zoning Committee meeting.  A summary of the ZBA application will be posted on the Zoning Committee agenda, which will be posted on the DSW website (www.dickinsonsquarewest.org) a minimum of seven (7) days before the Zoning Committee meeting.
  3. Zoning Committee Meeting. At the Zoning Committee meeting, the chair will call the meeting to order and state the mission statement of the committee.  Before an application is heard, Zoning Committee members must state if they have a conflict of interest, per the Dickinson Square West Civic Association conflict of interest policy.  If a committee member feels that they cannot fairly hear an application, they must recuse themselves from voting on such application.  After the mission statement is read, the chair will introduce the application. Then, the applicant and/or applicant’s professionals (attorney, architect, planner, engineer, etc.) will present the proposed project and answers any questions from the Zoning Committee.  Once all questions have been answered of the Zoning Committee, neighbors and other meeting attendees may ask questions or provide comments.  Order will be maintained by the zoning chair.  The Committee requests that before individuals speak, they state whether they are a neighbor; whether they have any bias in this case; whether they are a relative of the applicant; a real estate broker related to the case; an attorney whose office represents the applicant; or any other conflict of interest.
  4. Vote. At the public Zoning Committee meeting, the Committee does not take a vote from the individuals present.  The DSW Zoning Committee reviews all aspects of the proposal in context of the Zoning Code and Philadelphia Neighborhood Design Guidelines, as well as input from neighbors, and will recommend approval, approval with proposed conditions, no position or denial of the application.  Majority vote rules, of the majority of eligible voting members. Note that this is only a recommendation to the ZBA and not the final decision of the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment.  This decision should not preclude neighbors from attending the ZBA hearing. There will be a vote sheet kept electronically by the Zoning Committee to keep a record of how votes of committee members were cast.
  5. Decision.  The Zoning Chair will draft up a letter for review and input by other committee members.  The Zoning Chair will fax and/or email the subject decision letter to the ZBA Chair, copying the applicant and Councilman Squilla within one week of the Zoning Committee meeting.  A summary of the application and decision will be posted on the DNCA website within seven (7) days of the Zoning Committee meeting. A copy of the letter will be kept on file electronically.

Zoning Committee Guidelines

  • The Dickinson Square West Zoning Committee shall consist of nine (9) or fewer members.
  • Once a new Committee member attends three meetings in a row, they are eligible to petition the DSW Board for Zoning Committee membership DSW Board then approves petition by a majority vote
  • Zoning Committee members cannot miss more than three meetings of the twelve (12) meetings per year.
  • There shall be one Chair of the Committee, nominated and determined by the Committee. The Committee members shall serve staggered, two year terms.
  • There is no limit as to the number of terms one can serve.
  • At least one Board member should be on the Committee.
  • Committee members must prepare and review the applications in advance of the public meeting.