Tuesday, July 5, 2016

1. When was the motion to write a Comprehensive Plan for the Borough of Narberth initially proposed?  2. Who initiated the proposal for the plan? What was their rationale for doing so? 
We do not believe there was a motion to write a Comprehensive Plan for the Borough of Narberth. Discussion of compliance with The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code predate the membership of this Committee.  Commonwealth statute requires every Municipality write a Comprehensive Plan every 10 years.    The previous Council had made the writing of the FBZC a priority and now we have a moment to look at the Comprehensive Plan.  At recent Council Meetings the writing of the Comprehensive Plan was discussed in the context of the MCPC contract renewal. 
            3. Who will be informing the MCPC Lauren Van Dyk about the content for the draft? 
Lauren Van Dyk and the MCPC will be informing Narberth about the appropriate content for the draft first. Much of this content exists within Chapter 124 of the Borough Code already.  They will use our existing Statement of Community Objectives as a starting point.  The plan will also include information about storm water management, tree canopy, better pedestrian and vehicle circulation, parking plans, and energy conservation plans. 
4. Have non-borough-official residents been invited to participate in the process to date? 
The general public will be invited to provide feedback on the draft when it is completed and ready for Planning Commission Review.   We hope to that MCPC will introduce the draft to us in the Spring of 2017.  Several public meetings are required by law prior to the public hearing.  We will plan extra meetings once the draft is ready and make sure that all residents have ample opportunity to learn about and contribute to the plan. 

5. Where can residents find a public record of the above proceedings? 
The Comprehensive Plan has been discussed from time to time over the years.  As far as we know there has never been formal proceedings but the Comprehensive Plan has been mentioned in previous meetings over the years.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Updated Questions from Residents

1. What is the current code regarding trash and recycling areas? What are the         differences in the form-based code?

The Borough's code of ordinances addresses trash and recycling areas primarily in Chapter 72-Garbage, Rubbish and Refuse and in Chapter 97-Recycling. Chapter 72 regulates things like the placement, number, and design of refuse units permitted in the Borough; refuse unit collection by building type (i.e. residential versus commercial) and proper collection practices; the storage of refuse units; and collection fees. Chapter 97 establishes the Borough's recycling program and further provides standards for the separation and collection of recyclables. 

Chapter 124 of the code, Zoning, only specifically addresses trash areas in §124-57.K.5.f. This section allows for fully enclosed trash receptacles on the noncommercial side of a split-zoned lot which is partially within a C-Commercial zoning district as part of the conditional use standards required for a planned shopping center. This, of course, is a fairly unique situation for the Borough. The code does not otherwise specifically address trash and recycling areas. 

The proposed form-based code would only repeal and replace Chapter 124 of the current code of ordinances. §124-604 of the proposed zoning code regulates trash and recycling areas in all proposed districts. For all residential uses in the 3a, 3b, 3c, 4a, and 4b districts, all trash and recycling receptacles would be required to remain in the third lot later (the rear of the property) (§124-604.A.1), except within 24 hours of collection. In that case, receptacles would be temporarily permitted in the first lot layer for collection (§124-604.A.2). 

For all nonresidential uses throughout the Borough and for properties within the 5a or 5b districts, the proposed standards would add the requirement that trash and recycling receptacles are to be located at least eight feet back from any property line, and enclosed on at least three sides to provide sufficient screening from neighboring properties (§124-604.B.1). §124-604.B.2 also goes beyond existing language to specify the type of enclosure permitted - brick, wood, or metal fencing, or an adequately landscaped screen of evergreen shrubs and/or grasses. This was added to the form-based code to ensure that enclosures do indeed hide any receptacles from view, and are also generally in line with the aesthetics of the Borough.

2. What is the procedure for assuring the form-based code goes to public vote?

Zoning ordinances are not adopted by referendum, but by majority vote of Borough Council. Though there will not be a public vote on the code's adoption, the Borough has taken steps to provide a variety of forums to receive residents' questions or comments throughout the process. 

Regarding the adoption procedure, Pennsylvania state law, through the PA Municipalities Planning Code, requires municipalities to advertise and hold at least one public hearing upon public notice before the governing body (Borough Council) can vote on the adoption of a new zoning code. The governing body must vote on the proposed code within 90 days of the final public hearing. This hearing will be heavily advertised when the time comes. 

The Borough held a series of three special Council meetings this past summer to provide a forum for focused discussion on specific aspects of the code. Questions and comments provided by Council members and residents were recorded and are being considered as we complete the final draft. Many of the comments heard over the past months (years, really!) are being incorporated into the final version.

Residents are encouraged to continue to attend Planning Commission, Building and Zoning Committee, and Council meetings to engage in the ongoing discussion about the form-based code when it is on the agenda. Residents can also direct questions or comments to

3. What is the difference between the height allowed along South Narberth                Avenue in the existing code and the proposed code?

Building height is regulated through the existing zoning code and through the Narberth Building Code. The zoning code, under Article XII-General Provisions, states that no building may exceed 35 feet in height (§124-80), with height defined as a measurement from "the mean level of the ground surrounding the building to a point midway between the highest and lowest points of the roof, provided that chimneys, spires, towers, elevator penthouses, tanks and similar projections shall not be included in calculating the 'height'" (§124-1.B). 

Under the proposed form-based code, South Narberth Avenue would fall within the 3c Mixed Residential Open zoning district. Article 5 of the proposed code provides the following regulations for the 3c district regarding height:

  • §124-501.A.2 - No building height shall exceed 35 feet (no change from the existing code)
  • §124-501.B.1.a - The minimum height above pre-development grade at the primary   frontage line shall be 2 feet and the maximum height shall be 6 feet

Additionally, Table 5-Building Form Standards on page 21 of the draft code illustrates a summary of building height restrictions across all proposed zoning districts:

Monday, October 19, 2015

Some more Questions from the public

1. What is the rationale behind changing the zoning in South Narberth?

Look at the post June 3, 2015 for answers to this question.

2. What effect do the proposed zoning changes have on density in South Narberth?

We're working on a map that compares buildout under the existing and proposed codes. For residential neighborhoods that means how many more dwellings could be built. The analysis is pretty crude and does not take into account all of the particular issues that a property may have- like topography, shape, and the cost of purchase and redevelopment. This is a very important thing to not forget in looking at the information below.

We finished the analysis of residential neighborhoods under the existing code and it looks like this:

Existing_Zoning SumOfExisting_units SumOfExisting_Buildout
R-1 221 233
R-2 889 1,137
R-3 526 577
R-4 149 189
R-5 8 54

1,793 units exist today in the R-1 through R-5 districts with the potential for 2,190 under the current zoning. That's 397 units or about 22% more. This number does not take into account possible living units in the C - Commercial District.

We finished the analysis of neighborhoods under the proposed form-based code and it looks like this:

3a - Neighborhood Residential
3b - Mixed Residential Limited
3c - Mixed Residential Open
4a - General Urban Limited
4b - General Urban Open

1,789 units exist today in the areas proposed to be zoned in the five residential districts under the form-based code with the potential for 2,220 units. That's 431 units or about 24% more.

Keep in mind that neither analysis above takes into account Downtown Narberth or Montgomery Avenue properties which are eligible under the existing and proposed codes for residential development as apartment or mixed use buildings.

Narberth has 1,842 living units today and an estimated population of  4,295 in 2014. 

3. What is the difference between the current R-3 zoning and the proposed 4a General Urban Limited for the 5 dwellings on the first block of Elmwood in from S. Narberth Avenue?

All properties proposed to be zoned 4a General Urban can be used by right for residential uses- detached homes, twins, multifamily houses, and apartment buildings. All properties currently zoned R-3 can be used for singles, twins, duplexes, and three-family dwellings by right. Nonconforming uses in the R-3 can be converted to other nonconforming uses of the same or more restricted classification by conditional use. In the case of the Baptist Church for example, the building could be reused for all R-3 by right uses as well as apartments, a club or lodge, educational uses, religious, hospital, sanatorium, or a central telephone office by conditional use. 

Under the proposed 4a District, larger lots that have older buildings can be used as well for limited non residential uses provided the existing building is preserved (see map on page 96) by conditional use (see Table 3 page 12). The only building that satisfies that condition of the 5 you mention in your question is the former Baptist Church. As a civic institutional building (see map on page 95) the property would also be subject to additional standards regarding the permanent preservation of its historic appearance if it were proposed to be reused for a conditional use.

As far as site design is concerned, the 4a District differs from the 3b and 3c by allowing slightly higher building and impervious coverage on a lot- and minimum lot size for detached houses is 4,000 sqft instead of 6,000 sqft. The R-3 district permits up to 35% building coverage on a lot and a minimum lot size of 3,500 per family. The current zoning restricts the amount of surface that can be paved that is located not in setback areas or by the building. This is a different metric than an overall site impervious coverage limit in the proposed code. It is very difficult to compare the two impervious standards.

4. What is the difference between the current R-3 zoning and the proposed 3c Mixed Residential Open for the dwellings along either side of S. Narberth Avenue?

5. What is the difference between the current R-2 zoning and the proposed 3b Mixed Residential Limited zoning?

6. What is the difference between the current R-3 zoning and the proposed 3b Mixed Residential Limited zoning?

Questions 3-6 require involved answers because with regard to building design the differences are comprehensive. The existing code says very little about how a building should be designed- just how much of the lot it can occupy and setbacks. The differences with regard to minimum off-street parking have been reduced in all districts as well. One space per living unit is the proposed standard in all but the 3a District where 2 space per unit standard remains.

More on uses and density in each question above...

7. When is the next meeting that will address the propose FBZC draft?

The Building and Zoning Committee meets Monday November 2 at 7:30pm. A list of issues from the 3 summer sessions is being gathered for Council who will request clarification from the Planning Commission at their meeting which should follow immediately thereafter. The issues are described in the minutes uploaded to this site.

We'll continue to update this post with answers....

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Online Narberth Borough Zoning Map

Link to online Zoning Map

We've been working on an online zoning map. but found a bug that the provider is fixing hopefully this week. Good news the bug was fixed! We should have this map up and running soon. The map will enable anyone to click on a parcel and see the existing and proposed zoning districts and a few other measurable characteristics.

Although not ready yet, we hope this helps answer some questions quickly. The property line information is pretty accurate but should not be used for site planning purposes. Consult your deed and hire someone to survey your property to be sure.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Special Meeting of Council Wednesday September 9 at 8pm

Tomorrow night Council will meet in special session for the third of three consecutive monthly meetings to discuss the draft form-based zoning code. The topic of the meeting will cover some of the issues raised previously, any new ones that Council has requested be addressed, and touch upon parts of the code that have not been discussed yet. These sections mostly cover things like signage, landscaping, streets, and sidewalks.

An agenda is posted here and on the Borough homepage.

Monday, August 10, 2015

August Special Meeting

Thank you for attending our special meeting of Council to talk about the design issues raised and regulated by the draft form-based code. We spent the evening discussing the qualitative differences that govern building design between the proposed and existing code. This is probably where the two codes differ the most. It's important to remember that the form-based code is proposed to apply to the entire Borough and not as a design guideline, but as regulatory language. In other words, property owners will need to comply with the design standards or seek relief from the Zoning Hearing Board like they do currently with any other zoning standard.

I hope the other lesson people came away with was that the code regulates form and design but not style. The proposed code is blind to color, taste, or whether your home or commercial building is built in a modern or late Victorian tradition. The code also takes care to make sure that new buildings fit into the neighborhood with facade area regulations and front yard setbacks that flex with conditions found on each block. As new homes trend larger and more opulent in the Borough, the Planning Commission gave this some thought and proposed limits on bulk that won't get rid of big homes in the future, but assure that more of their bulk ends up the rear portion of lots.

We generated a short list of design issues from your and Council's questions that will be considered in a public meeting on Monday August 10 at 8pm. Council will debate them, make a recommendation, or refer them to the Planning Commission for an explanation. You can view a copy of August's presentation and the list of issues in the links to the right. As always please send your questions and concerns to

Friday, July 31, 2015

Special Meeting of Council

Special Meeting of Council

Wednesday August 5 at 8:00 at Borough Hall

This is the second of three special meetings of Council to discuss the draft form-based code. An agenda for the evening is available here. If you can't attend and have questions about the code send us an email to and it will be answered, posted here, and forwarded to Council.