Read the zoning application related to a high rise apartment building at the Plymouth Meeting Mall

Through a right-to-know request, has obtained a zoning application filed by PREIT, the owner of the Plymouth Meeting Mall. The application seeks a special exception to the zoning code for the “Shopping Center” zoning district that would allow an 11-story apartment building with 503 units.

The application states that PREIT seeks to demolish the former IKEA headquarters (light green circle above on overhead photo) on the property and replace it with the apartment building. The application acknowledges that a highrise apartment building is not specifically allowed within the zoning district, but goes on to make the case that a special exception is warranted due to this wording in the code:

Any use of the same general character as any of the above permitted uses, when authorized as a special exception by the zoning hearing board, provided that such use shall be permitted subject to such reasonable restrictions as the zoning hearing board may determine and further provided that no trade or business shall be permitted which is either noxious or hazardous;

Two of the “above permitted” uses within the “Shopping Center” district are “motel or motor court” and “elderly housing/assisted living facility.” The application refers to how these two uses are defined within the township code to make the case that the proposed apartment building meets the requirement of being of the “same general character” to qualify for a special exception.

The application then points out two mentions of apartments in the code pertaining to the “Shopping Center” zoning district. In the section covering height restrictions (Section 1101. L.2.) it states:

High rise apartment buildings, hotels, motels, or motor courts one hundred forty (140) feet, provided any extension of height in excess of one hundred forty (140) feet shall be permitted solely for the purpose of safety warning devices;

The code also outlines parking requirements for high rise apartments. From the code (Section 1101. F.2.B.4.):

High rise apartment building or hotel—Two (2) parking spaces for each one- or two-bedroom apartment or guest unit and three (3) parking spaces for three (3) or more bedroom apartment or guest units.

As we stated above, the application presents a case that apartments are of the “same general character” of permitted uses within the zoning district. The second argument is that there are specific regulations that apply to a high rise apartment building within the code for the zoning district. So while a high rise apartment building was not originally included in the permitted uses with the zoning code, language regulating them was included within the code.

Plymouth Township’s Council voted earlier this month to oppose this application. The township hasn’t issued a notice yet, but we are told that the hearing will be held on November 16th at 7:00 p.m.

You can read the application here. Note that it includes a lot more detail and references court cases, etc. The application also mentions an “Exhibit A” that includes a sketch plan. We did not receive that with the application.

Do you think it makes a compelling case to be granted the special exception? Let us know in the comments.