Zoning Code for RSD-3 Districts

RSD-3 districts are primarily intended to accommodate detached houses on individual lots.  It is intended that RSD zoning be applies in areas where the land-use pattern is characterized predominately by detached houses on individual lots or where such a land use pattern is desired in the future.

Single-family dwellings do not require zoning approval. Other uses require either a use registration permit from the Department of Licenses and Inspection or a special exception or a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Uses not mentioned require a variance. Properties must also conform to specific dimensions listed. Otherwise, you must obtain a variance.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact an experienced zoning attorney.

Residential Uses

Household Living

Household Living is defined as “Residential occupancy of a building or any portion thereof by one or more families. When a household living use is rented, tenancy is arranged on a month-to-month or longer basis. Uses where tenancy may be arranged for a shorter period are not considered residential; they are considered a form of lodging.”

Single Family does not require zoning approval.

Single Family is defined as “The use of a lot as a residence for one family.”

Two-Family requires a variance.

Two Family is defined as “The use of a lot as a residence for two families with each family occupying a single dwelling unit.”

Multi-Family requires a variance.

Multi-Family is defined as “The use of a lot as a residence for three or more families with each family occupying a single dwelling unit.”

Group Living

Group Living is defined as “Residential occupancy of a building or any portion thereof that is not categorized as a household living use and that typically provides communal kitchen/dining facilities. Examples of group living uses include, but are not limited to, fraternities, sororities, group homes, and temporary overnight shelters.”

Personal Care Home requires a variance.

Personal Care Home is defined as “Any premises in which food, shelter, and personal assistance or supervision are provided for a period exceeding 24 hours for four or more adults who are not relatives of the operator, who do not require the services in or of a licensed long-term care facility, but who do require assistance or supervision in such matters as dressing, bathing, diet, financial management, evacuation from the residence in the event of an emergency, or medication prescribed for self-administration.” Where the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare requires, personal care homes must comply with 55 Pa. Code Chapter 2600.

Single-Room Residence requires a variance.

Single-Room Residence is defined as “A building containing rooms rented as living quarters without private bathrooms. Examples include dormitories, rooming houses, and supported independent living.”

Parks and Open Spaces

This category includes uses that may occur on land that has been identified for parks and recreation uses open to the public or to be left in a generally natural state.

Passive Recreation requires a use registration permit.

Passive Recreation is defined as “Recreational facilities associated with pastimes that are incidental to natural open space. These facilities require minor land development, require minimal maintenance, and have little impact on natural open space.”

Active Recreation requires a variance.

Active Recreation is defined as “Recreational facilities that require major land development, structure construction, and a moderate- to high-level of maintenance and can accommodate large groups of people.”

Public, Civic, and Institutional Uses

Public, Civic, and Institutional Uses includes public, quasi-public, and private uses that provide unique services that are of benefit to the public as a whole.

Day Care

Day Care is defined as “Uses providing care, protection, and supervision for children or adults for a fee on a regular basis away from their primary residence for less than 24 hours per day. Examples include preschools, nursery schools, Head Start programs, latch key programs, and adult daycare programs.” Care given by guardians or relatives of the children or adults is not regarded as day care, nor is care given away from the primary residence of the children or adults by babysitters or caregivers for fewer than 10 hours per week.

Family Day Care requires a use registration permit.

Family Day Care is defined as “The provision of care within the day care provider’s primary residence for children who are not relatives of the provider.” A Family Day Care is limited to providing care to six or fewer children, except in certain areas where they are limited to providing care to four or fewer children. A Family Day Care must be located in a residential dwelling operated by the resident of the dwelling.

Group Day Care requires a variance.

Group Day Care is defined as “The provision of care in a facility that is not the day care provider’s primary residence for up to 12 children or 12 adults who are not relatives of the provider.”

Day Care Center requires a variance.

Day Care Center is defined as “The provision of care in a facility that is not the day care provider’s primary residence for 13 or more adults or 13 or more children who are not relatives of the provider.”

Educational Facility

Educational Facility requires a variance.

Educational Facility is defined as “Public and private schools at the primary, elementary, junior high, or high school level that provide basic education; or Colleges and other institutions of higher learning that offer courses of general or specialized study leading to a degree.”

Fraternal Organization

Fraternal Organization requires a variance.

Fraternal Organization is defined as “The use of a building or lot by a not-for-profit organization that restricts access to its facility to bona fide, annual dues-paying members and their occasional guests. Banquet rooms and the preparation and serving of food and beverages and occasional live entertainment are uses and activities in association with fraternal organizations.”


Hospital requires a variance.

Hospital is defined as “Uses providing medical or surgical care to patients and offering inpatient (overnight) care.”

Library or Cultural Exhibit

Library or Cultural Exhibit requires a variance.

Library or Cultural Exhibit is defined as “Museum-like preservation and exhibition of objects in one or more of the arts and sciences, gallery exhibition of works of art, or library collection of books, manuscripts, and similar materials for study and reading.”

Religious Assembly

Religious Assembly requires a variance.

Religious Assembly is defined as “Religious services involving public assembly that customarily occur in synagogues, temples, mosques, churches, and other facilities used for religious worship.” Religious Assembly must be in a completely enclosed detached building.

Safety Services

Safety Services require a variance.

Safety Services is defined as “Establishments that provide fire, police or life protection, together with the incidental storage and maintenance of necessary vehicles.”

Transit Station

Transit Station requires a variance.

Utilities and Services

Basic Utilities and Services require a variance.

Basic Utilities and Services is defined as “Public and quasi-public facilities and services that need to be located in the area where the service is to be provided, such as water and sewer pump stations; electrical transforming substations; wind energy conversion systems; solar collector systems; water conveyance systems; gas regulating stations; stormwater facilities and conveyance systems; telephone switching equipment; emergency communication warning/broadcast facilities; and central heating facilities.”

Major Utilities and Services require a variance.

Major Utilities and Services is defined as “Infrastructure services that have substantial land use impacts on surrounding areas. Typical uses include but are not limited to water and wastewater treatment facilities, major water storage facilities and electric generation plants.”

Wireless Service Facility

Wireless Service Facility requires a variance.

Wireless Service Facility is defined as “Towers, antennas, equipment, equipment buildings, and other facilities used in the provision of wireless communication services.” Freestanding towers must meet the requirements of §14-603(16) of the new Zoning Code. Building- or tower-mounted antennas must meet the requirements of §14-603(17).

Office Uses

Office Uses includes uses in an enclosed building, customarily performed in an office, that focus on providing executive, management, administrative, government, professional, or medical services.

Business and Professional

Business and Professional requires a variance.

Business and Professional is defined as “Office uses for companies and non-governmental organizations. Examples include corporate office, law offices, architectural firms, insurance companies, and other executive, management, or administrative offices for businesses and corporations.”

Medical, Dental, Health Practitioner

Medical, Dental, Health Practitioner is defined as “Office uses related to diagnosis and treatment of human patients’ illnesses, injuries, and physical malfunctions that can be performed in an office setting with no overnight care. Surgical, rehabilitation, and other medical centers that do not involve overnight patient stays are included in this subcategory, as are medical and dental laboratories, unless otherwise indicated.”

Sole Practitioner requires a variance.

Sole Practitioner is defined as “An office exclusively operated by one medical, dental, or health practitioner and having no more than one assistant regularly-employed there-in.”

Group Practitioner requires a variance.

Group Practitioner is defined as “A medical, dental, or health practitioner office that does not meet the definition of a sole medical, dental, and health practitioner.”


Government requires a variance.

Office uses related to the administration of local, state, or federal government services or functions.

Retail Sales Uses

Retail Sales includes uses involving the sale, lease, or rental of new or used goods to the ultimate consumer. It must be in an enclosed structure unless the code states otherwise.

Consumer Goods

Consumer Goods requires a variance.

Consumer Goods is defined as “Uses that sell or otherwise provide furniture, appliances, equipment, and similar consumer goods, large and small, functional and decorative, for use, entertainment, comfort, or aesthetics.”

Drug Paraphernalia

Drug Paraphernalia Store requires a variance.

Drug Paraphernalia Store is defined as “Any retail store selling paraphernalia commonly related to the use of any drug or narcotic of which the sale, use or possession is subject to the provisions of “The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act,” 1972, April 14, P.L. 233, No. 64, 51 et seq., 35 P.S. Section 780-101 et seq., including, but not limited to, water pipes, pipe “screens,” hashish pipes, “roach” clips, “coke” spoons, “bongs,” and cigarette rolling paper, except that this term does not include the sale of cigarette rolling paper by a store that also sells loose tobacco or the sale by prescription of implements needed for the use of prescribed drugs or narcotics.”

Gun Shop

Gun Shop requires a variance.

Gun Shop is defined as “Any retail sales business engaged in selling, leasing, purchasing, orlending of guns, firearms, or ammunition.”

Food, Beverages, and Groceries

Food, Beverages, and Groceries requires a variance.

Food, Beverages, and Groceries is defined as “Uses that sell or otherwise provide food or beverages for off-premise consumption, including grocery stores and similar uses that provide incidental and accessory food and beverage service as part of their primary retail sales business.”

Pets and Pet Supplies

Pets and Pet Supplies require a variance.

Pets and Pet Supplies is defined as “Uses that sell or otherwise provide household pets and pet supplies.”

Sundries, Pharmaceuticals, and Convenience Sales

Sundries, Pharmaceuticals, and Convenience Sales require a variance.

Sundries, Pharmaceuticals, Convenience Sales is defined as “Uses that sell or otherwise provide goods for personal grooming and for the day-to-day maintenance of personal health and well being.”

Wearing Apparel and Accessories

Wearing Apparel and Accessories requires a variance.

Wearing Apparel and Accessories is defined as “Uses that sell or otherwise provide goods to cover, protect, or visually enhance the human form.”

Commercial Services

Commercial Services includes uses that provide for consumer or business services, for the repair and maintenance of a wide variety of products, and for entertainment.

Business Support

Business Support requires a variance.

Business Support is defined as “Uses that provide personnel services, printing, copying, photographic services, or communication services to businesses or consumers. Typical uses include employment agencies, copy and print shops, telephone answering services, and photo developing labs.”

Eating and Drinking Establishment

Eating and Drinking Establishment requires a variance.

Eating and Drinking Establishment is defined as “Uses that prepare or serve food or beverages for on- or off-premise consumption. Establishments that meet the definition of a use classified in the eating and drinking establishments use subcategory and that also include occasional live entertainment may be classified as eating and drinking
establishment uses.”

Personal Services

Personal Services requires a variance.

Personal Services is defined as “Uses that provide a variety of services associated with personal grooming, personal instruction, and the maintenance of fitness, health, and well-being.”

Visitor Accommodations

Visitor Accommodations requires a variance.

Visitor Accommodations is defined as “Uses that provide temporary lodging for less than 30 days where rents are charged by the day or by the week or portion thereof and may also provide food or entertainment primarily to visitors and tourists.”

Urban Agriculture

Urban Agriculture includes uses such as gardens, farms, and orchards that involve the raising and harvesting of food and non-food crops and the raising of farm animals.

Animal Husbandry

Animal Husbandry requires a variance.

Animal Husbandry is defined as “Uses that involve the feeding, housing, and care of farm animals for private or commercial purposes.” Animal Husbandry is subject to §10-101(8) and §10-112 of the Philadelphia Code regarding farm animals.

Community Garden

Community Garden requires a use registration permit.

Community Garden is defined as “An area managed and maintained by a group of individuals to grow and harvest food crops or non-food crops (e.g., flowers) for personal or group consumption, for donation, or for sale that is incidental in nature.” A community garden area may be divided into separate garden plots or orchard areas for cultivation by one or more individuals or may be farmed collectively by members of the group. A community garden may include common areas (e.g., hand tool storage sheds) maintained and used by the group. Community gardens may be principal or accessory uses and may be located on a roof or within a building.

Market or Community-Supported Farm

Market or Community-Supported Farm requires a special exception.

Market or Community-Supported Farm is defined as “An area managed and maintained by an individual or group of individuals to grow and harvest food crops or non-food crops (e.g., flowers) for sale or distribution that is not incidental in nature.” Market farms may be principal or accessory uses and may be located on a roof or within a building.

Horticulture Nurseries and Greenhouses

Horticulture Nurseries and Greenhouses requires a variance.

Horticulture Nurseries and Greenhouses is defined as “A principal use involving propagation and growth of plants in containers or in the ground for wholesale or retail sales and distribution.”

Roof Decks

Roof Decks require a zoning permit. and must comply with the following rules unless a variance is obtained.


Roof decks must be set back at least five feet from the front building line. In cases where the top story is already set back at least 5 feet, the roof deck does not require an additional setback.

Access Structures (“Pilot Houses”)

Roof deck access structures (known as “pilot houses”) may extend above the maximum height allowed for the building (see below) if they only serve to enclose the access stairs and do not exceed 10 feet in height.


Railings are permitted up to 48 inches above the midway point between the highest and lowest points of the roof. Railings can extend above the maximum height allowed for the building (see below).


Buildings which do not comply with these dimensions require a variance.

Lot Width (Minimum): 50 feet

Lot Area (Minimum): 5,000 square feet

Open Area (Minimum): 70 percent

Front Setback: 25 feet

Rear Yard Depth (Minimum): 25 feet

Minimum Side Yard Width (Intermediate Lot): 10 feet per yard, 25 feet total

Minimum Side Yard Width (Corner Lot): 7 feet

Maximum Height: 38 feet

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