Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg Renews Push to Pass Zoning Code


Undeveloped sites, such as this Front Street lot in a newly created “Riverfront District,” would be impacted by Harrisburg’s proposed new zoning code.

Harrisburg has revived a long-dormant effort to re-haul its aged zoning code, with a final City Council vote slated for next month.

The flurry of action represents an abrupt change for the city. Four years ago, the city’s Planning Bureau submitted the new code to council, which then bottled it up in committee and never voted on it. After making several small changes, the Papenfuse administration recently re-introduced the draft code for consideration.

“The existing zoning code is too outdated and must immediately be updated,” said Joyce Davis, communications director for Mayor Eric Papenfuse. “[The mayor] believes at least a transitional zoning code is needed as the city goes through the comprehensive planning process.”

Council held a committee hearing on the proposed code on June 5. At that meeting, some businesses and residents expressed concern over how the new code treats matters like private parking businesses and transitional housing.

The city now will conduct two public input sessions. The first is slated for June 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the Camp Curtin YMCA, 2135 N. 6th St. The second will take place June 26 at the Boys & Girls Club at 1227 Berryhill St.

A final council vote is slated for the July 8 legislative session.

The effort to revamp the city’s zoning code began about five years ago in an effort to streamline and simplify a code that had become overly complex and even obsolete, according to the city. Over the years, the code, originally passed in 1950, had grown to include 27 base zoning districts and six overlay districts. The new code includes just nine base districts and four overlay districts.

There has been some opposition to the new code, which makes considerable changes to how Harrisburg zones the city for housing and business. Several critics have said the city has the process backwards, that it should pass a new comprehensive plan before a new zoning code.

Davis, though, said that amendments can be added later “if deficiencies surface after the comprehensive planning process is complete.”

In one significant change, a new Riverfront District would be created along much of Front Street and along State Street to the Capitol. The district is more restrictive than existing zoning in terms of use, signage and parking in an effort to minimize impacts and preserve the character of the area. It also would cap new building height at 45 feet and, in many cases, increase setbacks.

Click here to read the draft zoning code and see maps of Harrisburg’s existing and proposed zones.


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