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Township of Swatara, PA
Dauphin County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
A. 
Frontage required onto improved street. Each proposed new lot, each land development and each proposed principal building shall be on a lot which directly abuts a public street, a street proposed to be dedicated to the Township by the subdivision plan which created or creates such lot, or a private street which meets all of the requirements of Chapter 253, Subdivision and Land Development. In the case of townhouses, manufactured/mobile home parks, or apartments, each unit may have access onto a parking court, which then has access onto a public or private street meeting Township standards.
B. 
Number of principal uses and principal buildings per lot.
(1) 
A lot in a commercial or industrial district may include more than one permitted principal use per lot and/or more than one permitted principal building per lot, provided that all of the requirements are met for each use and each building. If differing dimensional requirements apply for different uses on the lot, then the most restrictive requirement shall apply.
(a) 
For example, if Use No. 1 requires a one-acre lot area and Use No. 2 on the same lot requires a two-acre lot area, then the lot shall have a minimum lot area of two acres.
(b) 
The applicant shall submit a site plan that demonstrates that each structure would meet the requirements of this chapter.
(c) 
The uses and buildings shall be in common ownership. However, a condominium form of ownership of individual buildings, with a legally binding property owner association, may be established if the applicant proves, to the satisfaction of the Zoning Officer, based upon review by the Township Solicitor, that there will be appropriate legal mechanisms in place.
(2) 
A lot within a residential district shall not include more than one principal use and shall not include more than one principal building unless specifically permitted by this chapter.
(a) 
A manufactured/mobile home park, condominium residential development or apartment development may include more than one principal building per lot, provided all other requirements of this chapter are met. A condominium form of ownership of individual dwelling units, with a legally binding homeowners' association, may be established if the applicant proves, to the satisfaction of the Zoning Officer, based upon review by the Township Solicitor, that there will be appropriate legal mechanisms in place and compliance with applicable state law.
C. 
Minimum size of dwellings. Each dwelling unit shall include a minimum of 600 square feet of enclosed habitable, indoor, heated floor area, which shall be primarily above the ground level.
D. 
Maximum occupancy. No recreational vehicle shall be occupied on a lot for more than 30 days in a calendar year, except as may be approved within a campground with suitable central water and sewage service. No mobile/manufactured home shall be occupied on a lot as a dwelling unless it meets all of the requirements for a dwelling.
The maximum structure height specified for each district shall not apply to antenna that meet the requirements of this chapter, water towers, clock or bell towers, steeples of places of worship, electrical transmission lines and towers, elevator shafts, stair towers, flagpoles, windmills, skylights, solar collectors, chimneys, heating/ventilation/air-conditioning equipment, smokestacks, parapet walls of up to four feet above the maximum height, and other appurtenances usually required to be and customarily placed above the roof level and not intended for human occupancy. See also the definitions of "building height" and "height" in § 295-22 and provisions in § 295-29B.
A. 
In general.
(1) 
No lot, structure or use shall be created or developed in such a way that it would result in another lot, building or use not being able to meet the requirements of this chapter. This includes, but is not limited to, setback areas, nonimpervious areas and off-street parking areas.
(2) 
Emergency access. All uses and structures shall have adequate provisions for access by emergency vehicles and fire ladders. Such access shall be maintained in a passable condition by the owner of the lot or, where applicable, by the property owner association.
B. 
Exceptions to minimum lot areas, lot widths and yards.
(1) 
Corner lots. For a corner lot, each yard that abuts a public street shall be considered a front yard and meet the requirements for minimum depth of a front yard. See definition of "lot, corner" in § 295-22.
(2) 
Projections into required yards.
(a) 
Cornices, eaves, roof overhangs, sills or other similar architectural features, exterior stairways, unenclosed fire escapes or other required means of egress, rain leads, chimneys, Bilco-type doors for basement access, window awnings, footers, chaise for heating pipes or other similar structures that do not include space usable by persons may extend or project into a required yard not more than three feet, except as may be required within a drainage or utility easement.
(b) 
Steps, stoops, fire escapes, handicapped ramps, and landings necessary to provide entrance to a building may be located within a required setback area.
(c) 
For decks and porches, see § 295-29.
(3) 
Lot widths around curves. Around the bulb of a cul-de-sac street or on the outside of the curve of a street with a radius of less than 150 feet, the minimum lot width at the minimum building setback line may be reduced to 60% of the width that would otherwise be required.
(4) 
Front yard setback modification.
(a) 
When an unimproved lot having a frontage of 200 feet or less is situated between two improved lots, each having a principal building which extends into the required front yard, is lawfully nonconforming, the front yards of such unimproved lot may be the average depth of the front yards of such two adjacent improved lots, notwithstanding the yard requirements of the district in which it is located.
(b) 
Established building line. Where more than 50% of the street frontage along any block or along a distance of 500 feet, whichever is the lesser, has been developed, the building line along such frontage shall be the average setback of all such existing principal buildings. Therefore, new buildings or additions and extensions to existing buildings, including enclosed or unenclosed porches, may conform to said established building line, regardless of the district yard requirements or the provisions of Subsection B(4)(a) above.
(5) 
Solar collectors may be placed over vehicle parking without being limited by the minimum setback and maximum impervious coverage requirements of this chapter.
C. 
Sight clearance at intersections. At the intersection of two streets, a clear sight triangle shall be provided. Within this triangle, no visual obstructions shall be allowed between the height of three feet and 10 feet above the ground level, except for utility posts, mailboxes, single signposts and the trunks of deciduous trees. The triangle shall be measured along the center line of the right-of-way line of the streets. Each leg of the triangle shall be measured 75 feet from the intersection of the center lines of the streets. A third longer leg shall connect the two legs along the center lines to form the triangle.
(1) 
However, in place of the above sight triangle, where a local street intersects an arterial or collector street with a stop sign only at the local street, the leg of the triangle along the arterial or collector street shall be increased to 250 feet, and the leg along the local street shall be decreased to 20 feet beyond the right-of-way of the arterial street.
(2) 
The clear sight triangle shall be kept free of such obstructions in perpetuity.
D. 
Buffer yards. Buffer yards and plant screening complying with the following standards shall be required under the following situations, unless a more restrictive provision is established by another section of this chapter:
(1) 
A minimum thirty-foot-wide buffer yard with plant screening shall be required along the rear and side lot lines of any lot used principally for principal nonresidential purposes that is contiguous to a lot occupied by an existing principal dwelling or an undeveloped residentially zoned lot.
(a) 
If a principal business use will include areas used for manufacturing or will have a loading dock that will be routinely serviced by tractor-trailer trucks or refrigerated trucks, then the minimum buffer yard width along such manufacturing area and/or loading dock shall be increased to 70 feet, and the minimum initial height of plantings shall be increased to eight feet.
(b) 
If a lot will include more than 100,000 square feet of business building floor area, then the minimum buffer yard width shall be increased to 70 feet, and the minimum initial height of plantings shall be increased to eight feet.
(c) 
If a dwelling will be on the same lot as a principal business use, then a buffer yard shall not be required by this section.
(d) 
A ten-foot minimum buffer yard with landscaped screening shall be required where a subdivision or land development of new dwellings will have rear yards abutting a public street or expressway.
(e) 
A buffer yard is also required to be provided by the following if they are abutting and visible from a public street:
[1] 
Along lot lines of any newly developed or expanded outdoor industrial storage or loading area; or
[2] 
Along lot lines of any newly developed or expanded area routinely used for the overnight parking of two or more tractor-trailer trucks or trailers of tractor-trailers.
(f) 
A landscaped berm may be incorporated into a buffer yard. In such case, the side adjacent to a business may be a retaining wall.
(2) 
A required yard may overlap a required buffer yard, provided the requirement for each is met. The buffer yard shall be measured from the district boundary line, street right-of-way line or lot line, whichever is applicable. Required plantings shall not be placed within the right-of-way, except that the Township may allow deciduous canopy trees.
(3) 
The buffer yard shall be a landscaped area free of structures, dumpsters, commercial or industrial storage, or display, signs, manufacturing or processing activity, materials, loading and unloading areas, or vehicle parking or display.
(4) 
Fence. Any wall or fence in a buffer yard shall be placed on the inside (nonresidential side) of any required plant screening.
(5) 
Each planting screen shall meet the following requirements:
(a) 
Plant materials needed to form the visual screen shall have a minimum height when planted of four feet. In addition, an average of one deciduous shade tree, with a minimum trunk diameter of two inches measured six inches above the finished ground level, shall be placed for each 50 feet of length of the buffer yard. The shade trees may be clustered or spaced unevenly.
(b) 
Plants needed to form the visual screen shall be of such species, spacing and size as can reasonably be expected to produce, within three years, a mostly solid year-round visual screen at least six feet in height.
(c) 
The plant screen shall be placed so that, at maturity, the plants will not obstruct a street or sidewalk.
(d) 
The plant visual screen shall extend the full length of the lot line, except for:
[1] 
Township-approved points of approximately perpendicular vehicle or pedestrian ingress and egress to the lot;
[2] 
Locations necessary to comply with safe sight distance requirements where the plantings cannot feasibly be moved further back; and
[3] 
Locations needed to meet other specific state, Township and utility requirements, such as stormwater swales.
(e) 
American arborvitae and similar weak-stem plants shall not be used to meet the buffer yard requirements. A monotonous straight row of the same species is discouraged. A more naturalistic form of planting is encouraged, with a mix of species. If more than 20 evergreen plants are proposed, no more than 50% shall be of one species.
(f) 
Evergreen trees should be planted at diagonal offsets so that there is room for future growth of the trees.
(g) 
The plant screening shall primarily use evergreen trees.
(h) 
If existing healthy trees with a trunk diameter of six inches or greater (measured 4.5 feet above the ground level) exist within the buffer yard, they shall be preserved to the maximum extent feasible. The Zoning Officer may certify that preserving existing mature trees and shrubs within the buffer yard will meet the same purposes as the new plant screening. In such case, part or all of the new plant screening may be waived, in writing, by the Zoning Officer.
(i) 
The use of earth berms in combination with landscaping is encouraged within buffer yards to provide additional protection to dwellings and residential areas. An earth berm may be required as a condition of a conditional or special exception use approval.
(6) 
Buffer yard plans. Prior to the issuance of a permit under this chapter where a buffer yard would be required, and on any required subdivision or land development plan, the applicant shall submit plans showing:
(a) 
The location and arrangement of each buffer yard;
(b) 
The placement, general selection of species and initial size of all plant materials; and
(c) 
The placement, size, materials and type of all fences to be placed in such buffer yard.
A. 
Any part of a commercial, industrial, institutional or apartment lot which is not used for structures, loading areas, parking spaces and aisles, sidewalks, and designated storage areas shall be provided with an all-season, well-maintained vegetative ground cover and shall be landscaped with trees and shrubs. Landscaped areas shall be kept free of debris, rubbish, and noxious weeds.
B. 
See the buffer yard provisions in § 295-123.
C. 
Street trees. As part of the creation of a new lot for any use, the construction of a new principal nonresidential building, a new land development, or development of a parking area for six or more parking spaces, deciduous shade street trees shall be planted between such lot lines, building and/or parking area and any adjacent public street(s). This requirement shall not apply along street segments where existing healthy trees will be preserved and protected during construction that will serve the same purpose.
(1) 
Number. A minimum average of one such tree shall be planted for each 50 feet of length of street right-of-way around the lot.
(2) 
Location. Such trees shall be placed with the trunk immediately outside of the street right-of-way, or an alternative location acceptable to the Township.
(3) 
Ordinance. Such street trees shall be planted in a manner approved by the Township Engineer to avoid conflicts with sidewalks and utilities.
(4) 
Buffer. Where shade trees may be required under the buffer yard provisions, the same tree may be used to count towards both requirements.
(5) 
The street trees shall meet the requirements of Subsection D.
D. 
Parking lot landscaping.
(1) 
A minimum of one deciduous tree shall be required for every 15 new off-street parking spaces.
(2) 
If a lot will include 30 or more new parking spaces, landscaped islands shall be provided within automobile parking areas. Otherwise, the trees may be planted around the parking area.
(3) 
Deciduous trees required by this section shall meet the following standards:
(a) 
Type of trees permitted. Required trees shall be chosen from the following list of approved street trees. The Shade Tree Commission or Board of Commissioners may approve a proposal for an alternate species if the applicant proves such species would shade paved areas, be resistant to disease, road salt and air pollution and be attractive and sturdy.
Types of Permitted Deciduous Trees
Botanical Name
Common Name
Acer rubrum
Red maple
Acer saccharum
Sugar maple
Carpinus betulus
European hornbeam
Celtis occidentalis
Common hackberry
Fagus sylvatica
European beech
Fraxinus americana
White ash
Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Green ash
Ginkgo biloba fastigiata
Maiden hair tree (male only; female has noxious odor)
Gleditsia triacanthos
Thornless locust
Liriodendron tulipifera
Tulip poplar
Ostrya virginiana
Hop-hornbeam
Quercus
All species of oaks
Sophora japonica
Scholar tree/pagoda tree
Tilia americana
American linden
Tilia cordata
Littleleaf linden
Tilia euchlora
Crimean linden
Tilia tomentosa
Silver linden
Ulmus hybrids
Homestead or sapporo autumn gold
Ulmus parviflora
Chinese or lacebark elm, not including Siberian elm
Zelkova serrata
Zelkova
NOTE: This chapter only regulates the species of trees that are used to meet requirements of the Township. The species of trees that are not required by Township ordinances are not regulated.
(b) 
Quality of trees. Required trees shall be of symmetrical growth and free of insect pests and disease.
(c) 
Minimum size. The trunk diameter (measured at a height of six inches above the finished grade level) shall be a minimum of two inches or greater.
(d) 
Planting and maintenance. Required trees shall be:
[1] 
Planted in conformance with good landscaping practices, with adequate unpaved surface around each for water and air; and
[2] 
Properly protected, by curbs, curb stops, distance or other devices, from damage from vehicles.
(4) 
Parking lot landscaping. A minimum vegetative area shall be provided that includes at least a four-foot minimum radius around all sides of the trunk of each required deciduous tree within or adjacent to a parking lot.
E. 
Review and approval. Where landscaping is required by this chapter, the applicant shall submit a landscaping plan, in addition to a site plan, showing proposed initial sizes, locations and species of plantings.
F. 
Landscape maintenance. All tree, buffer yard and other landscaping required by this chapter shall be perpetually maintained by the property owner. Any landscaping needed to meet a chapter requirement that dies, is removed, or is severely damaged shall be replaced by the current property owner, on a one-to-one basis, as soon as is practical considering growing seasons, within a maximum of 150 days.
G. 
Stormwater basin landscaping. The following requirements shall apply to landscaping within and around stormwater management basins:
(1) 
All areas of stormwater management basins, including basin floors, side slopes, berms, impoundment structures, or other earth structures shall be planted with suitable vegetation, such as meadow plantings or grasses specifically suited for stormwater basins.
(2) 
Trees and shrubs shall be planted around stormwater basins. However, trees and shrubs shall not be planted in locations that would interfere with the function of the basin, such as within 30 feet from the outlet/drain structure, emergency spillway or dam. A minimum average of two trees and 10 shrubs shall be required to be planted around the basin for every 100 linear feet of basin perimeter. Such perimeter shall be measured at the elevation of the top of the berm. Such trees and shrubs shall be in addition to other Township requirements. Trees shall have an initial trunk diameter of two inches, measured six inches above the ground. Shrubs shall have an initial height of four feet.
(3) 
Natural ground cover plant species shall be planted in the floors and slopes of the basin. These ground covers may include wildflowers, meadows or nonaggressive grasses. Species shall be chosen that are suitable for the expected wetness of various portions of the basin. The plantings shall provide a continuous cover over all earth areas of the basin. The plantings shall not interfere with the proper functioning of the basin, in the determination of the Township Engineer.
(4) 
Lawn grass areas may be sodded or hydroseeded to minimize erosion during the establishment period. Once established, turf grass areas on nonwet areas of the basin shall be maintained at a height of not more than six inches.
(5) 
To the maximum extent feasible, stormwater basins shall be designed with slopes that blend with the surrounding topography. Areas intended to be mowed shall have a maximum slope of 3:1.
A. 
Proof and registration of nonconformities. It shall be the responsibility of, with the burden of proof upon, a party asserting a nonconformity to provide the evidence that it is lawful. A property owner may request a written statement of nonconformity from the Zoning Officer after providing sufficient evidence.
B. 
Continuation of nonconformities.
(1) 
A lawful nonconforming use, structure or lot as defined by this chapter may be continued and may be sold and continued by new owners.
(2) 
Any expansion of, construction upon or change in use of a nonconformity shall only occur in conformance with this section.
(3) 
If an existing use was not lawfully established, it shall not have any right to continue as a nonconforming use.
C. 
Expansion of or construction upon nonconformities. The following shall apply, unless the structure is approved under Subsection D:
(1) 
Nonconforming structure.
(a) 
The Zoning Officer shall permit a nonconforming structure to be reconstructed or expanded, provided that:
[1] 
Such action will not increase the severity or amount of the nonconformity (such as the area of the building extending into the required yard) or create any new nonconformity; and
[2] 
Any expanded area will comply with the applicable setbacks in that district and other requirements of this chapter, except as may be allowed under Subsection C(1)(c) and (d) below.
(b) 
In the case of a nonconforming structure which is used by a nonconforming use, any expansion shall also meet the requirements of this section regarding nonconforming uses.
(c) 
Extension along a nonconforming setback. If an existing building has a lawfully nonconforming side or rear building setback, additions may occur to increase the height above such setback or to extend other portions of the building out to the nonconforming side or rear setback line, provided that:
[1] 
The structure shall not be extended beyond the existing nonconforming setback line;
[2] 
No additional nonconformity is created;
[3] 
The new nonconforming extension is not greater than 25% of the existing floor area of the building being expanded;
[4] 
All other requirements of this chapter shall be met; and
[5] 
Such additions shall not be permitted for a nonresidential building that abuts an existing primarily residential use.
(d) 
As a special exception, the Zoning Hearing Board may approve a reduction of up to 50% in a side or rear setback for an existing dwelling if the applicant proves such setback is necessary to allow a customary addition of such dwelling or a replacement of an existing undersized dwelling with a new dwelling. This subsection shall not allow a reduction in setback to increase the number of dwelling units on the lot, except for a unit for care of relative.
(2) 
Nonconforming lots.
(a) 
Permitted construction on a nonconforming lot. A single permitted by right principal use and its customary accessory uses may be constructed, reconstructed or expanded on a nonconforming lot, provided all of the following additional requirements are met:
[1] 
The lot must be a lawful nonconforming lot of record;
[2] 
Minimum setback requirements shall be met;
[3] 
State and federal wetland regulations shall be met; and
[4] 
If a septic or well is used, the requirements for such shall be met.
(b) 
Lot width. The fact that an existing lawful lot of record does not meet the minimum lot width requirements of this chapter shall not by itself cause such lot to be considered to be a nonconforming lot.
(3) 
Expansion of a nonconforming nonresidential use. A nonconforming use or a building used by a nonconforming use shall not be expanded, except in accordance with the following provisions:
(a) 
An expansion of more than 5% in total building floor area shall require special exception approval from the Zoning Hearing Board under Article I.
(b) 
Such reconstruction or expansion shall be only upon the same lot that the nonconforming use was located upon at the time the use became nonconforming.
(c) 
The total building floor area used by a nonconforming use or the total land area covered by the nonconforming use, whichever is more restrictive, shall not be increased by greater than 50% beyond what existed in the nonconforming use at the time the use first became nonconforming.
[1] 
The above maximum increase shall be measured in aggregate over the entire life of the nonconformity. All expansions of the nonconforming use and/or building(s) that occurred since the use originally became nonconforming shall count towards the above maximum increase.
(d) 
Any expansion of a nonconforming use shall meet the required setbacks and other requirements of this chapter, unless the Zoning Hearing Board grants a variance.
(4) 
Expansion of a nonconforming residential use. An existing nonconforming residential use may be expanded as a permitted by right use, provided that the number of dwelling units or rooming house units are not increased; the expansion meets all applicable setbacks; no new types of nonconformities are created; and a nonconformity is not made more severe. A lawfully nonconforming dwelling in a business district may follow the dimensional requirements for the R-M District and may add customary accessory uses.
(5) 
Nonconforming sign. The provisions of this chapter shall not provide a right to expand or extend a nonconforming sign. Instead, any expansions or extensions of a nonconforming sign shall comply with this chapter.
D. 
Damaged or destroyed nonconformities. A nonconforming structure or nonconforming use that has been destroyed or damaged may be rebuilt in a nonconforming fashion only if the application for a building permit is submitted within 18 months after the date of damage or destruction; work begins in earnest within six months afterwards and continues; and no nonconformity may be newly created or increased by any reconstruction. The property shall be properly secured during such time in such a way to keep out trespassers and to avoid harm to neighboring properties.
E. 
Abandonment of a nonconformity.
(1) 
If a nonconforming use of a building or land is discontinued, razed, removed or abandoned for 12 or more months, subsequent use of such building or land shall conform with the regulations of the district in which it is located, except as provided for in the provisions of this section in Subsection D, Damaged or destroyed nonconformities.
(2) 
The applicant shall be responsible to provide clear and convincing evidence that the nonconformity was not abandoned. If the building space was actively under renovation or there were active efforts to market or seek financing for the property for a nonconforming use, then, during such period, abandonment shall not be presumed to have occurred.
(3) 
An existing lawful separate dwelling unit may be unrented for any period of time without being considered abandoned under this chapter.
F. 
Changes from one nonconforming use to another.
(1) 
Once changed to a conforming use, a structure or land shall not revert to a nonconforming use.
(2) 
A nonconforming use may be changed to a different nonconforming use only if approved as a special exception by the Zoning Hearing Board. However, special exception approval is not needed for a simple change within an existing building from one lawful nonconforming retail store use to another retail store use or from one lawful nonconforming personal service use to another personal service use, provided that the new use complies with any Zoning Hearing Board conditions that applied to the previous use and is not more objectionable in external effects than the previous use.
(3) 
Where special exception approval is required for a change of a nonconforming use, the Board shall determine whether the applicant has provided sufficient proof to show that the proposed new use will be equal or less objectionable in external effects than the preexisting nonconforming use with regard to:
(a) 
Traffic safety and generation (especially truck traffic);
(b) 
Noise, dust, fumes, vapors, gases, odor, glare, vibration, fire, hazardous substances, and explosive hazards;
(c) 
Amount and character of outdoor storage;
(d) 
Hours of operation if the use would be close to dwellings; and
(e) 
Compatibility with the character of the surrounding area.
(4) 
A nonconforming use shall not be changed to a nonconforming adult use.
G. 
District changes. Any uses, structures or lots that become nonconforming because of a zoning district change shall be regulated under this section on nonconformities.
H. 
Parking space nonconformities. See § 295-105C
A. 
Waste dumpsters shall be screened on at least three of four sides by landscaping, solid fencing or an architectural masonry wall.
B. 
This section shall not apply to dumpsters that are temporarily kept on site during construction or for a period of less than 60 days per year.
[Added 3-8-2017 by Ord. No. 2017-5]
Firewood must be stacked neatly and systematically and meet the following requirements:
A. 
Stacks of firewood maintained for personal, residential use shall not be stored to a height in excess of five feet in height, four feet in width and 10 feet in length.
B. 
Stacks of firewood shall be a minimum of five feet from any property line.
C. 
Stacks of firewood shall not be stored in the front yard.
D. 
On a corner lot, through lot or a lot abutting an alley, stacks of firewood shall not be stored in the street right-of-way or sight distance triangle of intersections and/or driveways.
E. 
Stacks of firewood shall be placed either directly on a decay-resistant surface or elevated at least four inches off the ground.
F. 
Firewood storage on a porch shall not exceed two feet in height, three feet in width and two feet in depth, or 10% of the porch area, whichever is smaller.