Narberth was one of the first communities in Pennsylvania to adopt a form-based zoning code, written to ensure that new developments in Narberth fit into the character of the neighborhood, and that new developments reflect the size of other properties in the area. The form-based code regulates many aspects of building form, including minimum roof slope, window to wall ratio, building height, lot coverage, ensuring welcoming street-facing entrances, restricting facades to a narrow range of the block medium, and many others. Even in commercial corridors like Montgomery Avenue, building heights and forms are specified, and development is limited to three stories. This is far more conservative than neighboring Lower Merion, and our slate supports keeping this limit where it is.
The old zoning code imposed downtown parking requirements more appropriate to a suburban strip mall than to a quaint, walkable main street like Narberth’s. Liberalizing those requirements has led to mixed-use and commercial developments in the downtown and Montgomery Avenue areas at the Albrecht’s and Ricklin’s sites after those beloved stores closed their doors. These projects, the first commercial projects in many decades, further the goals of our Comprehensive Plan to “encourage appropriate land uses to support commercial development along Haverford Avenue and Montgomery Avenue” and to “encourage mixed-use development in the downtown district.” New developments bring new residents in the downtown, new opportunities for street-level businesses to serve the community, and also increase the Borough’s tax base, giving the Borough the capacity to improve governance without raising the property tax rate.
Council has paid close attention to the developments that have resulted from the new code, and has made multiple tweaks, particularly with an omnibus revision last year. Changes Council has made include limiting development on the south side of Haverford Avenue to two stories, further limiting the size of facades in residential districts, and ensuring that parking structures are kept out of view.
Finally, the Planning Commission is currently exploring options to modify the parameters of multi-family housing where it is permitted, and to encourage sustainable building, helping to fulfill the Borough’s pledge to transition to clean energy through our Climate Action Plan.Click here to read more about Narberth issues.