Planning Department


Mission Statement

To promote appropriate development and redevelopment of the city through the application of sound and innovative planning principles. The staff adheres to a planning process that considers the needs of residents, looks at the big picture, and examines issues from all angles (social, environmental, hazard and physical).

Who We Are

The Planning Department’s staff includes a Planning Director, Assistant Director, and Planning Technician. At certain times of the year a planning intern maybe used for researching, analyzing and generating relevant data for various planning projects. The department is located on the ground floor in the Chester City Hall and the office hours are from 9:00am to 4:30pm. The Planning Department provides many services to other departments in city hall and to the residents, businesses, and visitors requesting information about the city. The types of services that are provided by the Planning Department are divided into the following categories; several of which are mandated by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code.

  • Planning
  • Information
  • Development Review
  • Zoning Information
  • Permits and the Codified Ordinances
  • Community Outreach
Peter Rykard, Director

Peter Rykard



Zoning and Subdivision / Land Development

The Zoning Officer in the Planning Department administers and enforces the City of Chester Zoning Ordinance and the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance. Zoning is usually the first step in the development approval process.  Zoning regulations ensure that the land use and site layout on every parcel in the City of Chester is compatible with its surrounding context.  Each land use activity must demonstrate that it is compliant with the Zoning Ordinance – whether it’s simply a change in land use, a brand new construction project, or a rehabilitation project. Generally, a project will need a zoning approval (i.e., a zoning permit) if it involves:

  • Erection, construction, movement, placement or extension of a structure, building or sign, including but not limited to a swimming pool, deck, or a fence or wall that is more than 3 feet in total height,
  • Change in the type of use of a structure or land, or expansion of use,
  • Creation of a lot or alteration of lot lines,
  • Creation of a new use,
  • Demolition of a principal building, or partial demolition of the exterior of a principal building,
  • Site alterations or mineral extraction as defined by Section 1365.02 of the Zoning Ordinance,
  • Construction of a motor vehicle driveway, parking pad or parking lot,
  • Installation of garbage dumpsters, and/or
  • Certain temporary uses as described by Section 1363.03(g) of the Zoning Ordinance.

A zoning permit must be obtained prior to issuance of a building permit by the City of Chester Building Official, who is responsible for administering and enforcing construction codes.

How to Obtain Zoning Approval

There are three main ways to get a zoning permit from the Planning Department:


By Right
1. By Right

When the project proposal complies with all the zoning provisions applicable to the property (use, dimensions, parking, signs, etc.), it means an applicant can get a zoning permit by the Zoning Officer “by right” without any action by the Planning Commission, Zoning Hearing Board, or City Council.  Certain by right projects, however, must go through Planning Commission review and possibly reviewed by other commissions and boards, including:

  • Subdivisions
  • Drive-through facilities
  • New principal buildings in the Central Business District
  • Demolition of historic buildings
  • Off-street loading facilities
  • Any project seeking approval for the construction or alteration of a project that is not water-dependent and which is located south of Route 291 in the W-1 Waterfront District
  • The construction of 10 or more off-street parking spaces
  • The construction of 10,000 square feet or greater of new principal nonresidential building space
  • Other projects that the Planning Department Staff determine may have significant impacts upon an adjacent neighborhood.
By Special Exception
2. By Special Exception

The Zoning Ordnance permits certain uses and development by special exception, which is granted by the Zoning Hearing Board if the project is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.  Special exception uses are identified by the “SE” in the Table of Permitted Uses in Articles 1325 and 1327 of the Zoning Ordinance.  The Zoning Officer will review the application with the Planning Commission, then issue a “referral” so that the applicant can file an application for a hearing at the Zoning Hearing Board.  The Zoning Ordinance may also require special exception approval of other aspects of a  development proposal, such as signage or parking.  The Zoning Hearing Board will hold a public hearing and use the criteria specified in Section 1363.16c to ensure that the proposal does not adversely impact the surrounding neighborhood.  If the Zoning Hearing Board approves of the special exception, the applicant can pick up the zoning permit from the Planning Department.

By Variance
3. By Variance

Sometimes special circumstances prevent projects from conforming to the Zoning Ordinance. In these instances, applicants must obtain a variance from the Zoning Hearing Board in order to deviate from the zoning regulations. The Zoning Officer will review the application with the Planning Commission, then issue a “refusal” since the project proposal does not comply with the Zoning Ordinance. The applicant may then choose to either 1) alter the project to make it conform to the Zoning Ordinance, or 2) appeal the refusal to the Zoning Hearing Board for approval of the variance. The Zoning Hearing Board will hold a public hearing and use the criteria in Section 1363.11(d)(3) of the Zoning Ordinance to verify that there are special circumstances at the property presenting an unnecessary hardship in complying with the Zoning Ordinance. Before the public hearing, the applicant needs to post notice of the hearing on the subject property. If the Zoning Hearing Board approves of the variance, the applicant can pick up the zoning permit from the Planning Department.

Document Links


Aside are links the City’s Zoning and Subdivision/Land Development Ordinances. Also listed are related application forms. Please note, specialized zoning permit applications are required for signs and day cares located in residential districts. Application forms may be completed and printed prior to bringing them to the Planning Department in City Hall.

Planning Commission Meeting Dates & Application Due Dates

The Chester City Planning Commission meetings will be held in the City Council Chambers, Municipal Building, 2nd Floor, One Fourth Street, Chester, PA.  19013 at 2:00 PM on the following dates.

DatesApplications Must Be Submitted by:
January 12December 29, 2021
February 09January 28
March 09February 25
April 13March 25
May 11April 29
June 8May 27
July 13June 24
August 10July 29
September 14August 26
October 12September 30
November 09October 28
December 14November 23

Zoning Hearing Board Dates & Application Due Dates

The Chester City Zoning Hearing Board will be holding a Public Hearing in the City Council Chambers, One Fourth Street, 2nd Floor, Chester, PA 19103 at 10:00 AM, on the following dates.
DatesApplications must be submitted by:
January 19December 29, 2021
February 16January 28
March 16February 25
April 20March 25
May 18April 29
June 15May 27
July 20June 24
August 17July 29
September 21August 26
October 19September 30
November 16October 28
December 21November 23