The time is right for an update to riverfront zoning

PITTSBURGH, PA (December 21, 2015) Property owners near the City’s riverfronts will soon be receiving letters notifying them about the first step in an upgrade of the long out-dated zoning standards, which will protect current properties while making rules uniform for those seeking to develop or expand sites in the areas.

Many of the properties closest to the riverfronts are still zoned “Urban Industrial” or “General Industrial” as they were decades ago when manufacturing and industry dominated Pittsburgh waterfronts. In recent years more residential, commercial and mixed-use projects have built on the riverfronts even as the old zoning rules have stayed unchanged.

The letters to property owners describe a temporary zoning tool called an Interim Planning Overlay District (IPOD), and the process by which it may be approved. If approved, the proposed Riverfront IPOD will provide additional zoning controls to areas near the rivers for 18 months, while new, permanent zoning is crafted through a process informed by riverfront communities and stakeholders.

“This process gives us the breathing room to do riverfront development right, and protect and prioritize of our City’s greatest assets,” Mayor William Peduto said. “We’ve made a lot of progress by our rivers the last 20 years and this will allow us to do even better in decades to come.”

The Riverfront IPOD standards are designed to impact new buildings and parking lots, or existing buildings and parking lots that are being enlarged. Current homeowners and property owners within the overlay district who do not plan to build or enlarge their structures will not be affected.

The proposed zoning rules are the result of months of work by City Planning staff, community members, Riverlife, the development community and other stakeholders.

“Over the past three years Oxford has worked closely with the Peduto administration and Riverlife to ensure that our developments along the river’s edge are mindful of protecting and provide for public interaction with our City’s greatest assets.  We know that proper zoning helps shape good development which in turn creates great public spaces.  We are supportive of the effort by City Planning to prepare comprehensive riverfront zoning and look forward to fully participating in the process,” said Steve Guy, President and CEO, Oxford Development Company.

All property owners within the proposed district, as well as those within 150 feet of the district, will begin receiving explanatory letters this week. The letter says in part:

“The City will be creating new, permanent zoning for riverfronts that reflect Pittsburgh’s goals for its riverfronts. While this planning is underway, we wish to provide extra public scrutiny of development projects happening in these areas. In partnership with community stakeholders we have prepared an Interim Planning Overlay District (IPOD) that accomplishes the goals of the Interim Planning Overlay District section of the City’s zoning code. It will create opportunities for the public to provide input on development projects, ensure neighborhood access to the riverfronts, and address transportation while the new permanent zoning district is being crafted.”