Residential Zoning FAQs

How is my property zoned?

This question should be directed to the Zoning Officer. Each zone is shown on the official zoning map. The zoning ordinance contains zone district schedules prescribing permitted uses and bulk information pertaining to setbacks, density, structure height, lot size, etc. The Township consists of the following zoning districts:

  • Rural Residential and Agricultural (R-R)
  • Rural Holding (R-H)
  • R-2 Low Density Residential
  • R-3 Low Density Residential
  • R-4 Medium Density Residential
  • R-5 Medium Density Residential
  • R-10 High Density Residential
  • I-C-I Industrial Commercial I (Special Height Limitation)
  • I Industrial
  • HC Highway Commercial
  • HC-I Highway Commercial I (Special Height Limitation)
  • NC Neighborhood Commercial
  • GC General Commercial
  • GC-I General Commercial I (Special Height Limitation)
  • CR Commercial Recreation
  • OC Office Commercial

To view our zoning map or zoning district schedules please see our Forms section on this page.

When should I apply for a zoning permit?

You should check with the Township Zoning Officer whenever you propose to: build or alter a structure; change the nature of the activity that is to take place on a given property (e.g., residential use to commercial use, or one kind of business activity to another); hold a temporary event, or anything else that could have some impact upon other properties. To find out if you need to apply for a zoning permit, call the Township Zoning Officer at 610-398-0401.

How do I apply for a zoning permit?

Currently, South Whitehall Township uses a combination Zoning/Building Permit application form that can be downloaded from the Forms section on this page. Fill out all pertinent information, especially the address of the subject property; a description of what you propose to do; the owner’s permission, by his or her own signature; telephone numbers of the people we may need to reach. Include any relevant information with your submission such as a plot plan.

How do I know if my proposal complies with the Zoning Ordinance?

You can call the Zoning Officer for general information but we can serve you much better if you submit drawings/plans first, and/or make an appointment to discuss your plan in person. The Zoning Officer will give you the best guidance he can, but ultimately the responsibility to comply with the Zoning Ordinance rests with the property owner. Unfortunately, no set of regulations can foresee every kind of circumstance, and there is always the possibility of varying interpretation. Copies of the Township’s Zoning Ordinance are for sale at our Permit Counter for $15.00. For extensive projects, we advise you to purchase one. The Zoning Ordinance will also be available on our website soon.

If the Zoning Officer denies my permit, can he/she be overruled?

Yes. You can file an appeal with our Zoning Hearing Board if you feel the Zoning Officer made an incorrect interpretation of the Zoning Ordinance, or if you feel the zoning regulation that caused the denial of your permit imposes a hardship in your case.

Please explain what “grandfathering” and “non-conforming” means. How do these terms apply?

If you have a property with a building or use on it that has been established for quite a while but does not conform to our zoning regulations (perhaps in terms of its setback from the property line, or its height), or you have a business that is not expressly permitted for a given zone district – and that building or business existed prior to the zoning regulation that otherwise prohibits it – you may have a “non-conforming” building or business. It may therefore be “grandfathered” and allowed to continue – and to some extent potentially expanded. Please note that any changes to a non-conforming use must first be approved by the Zoning Hearing Board. In such a case, you must provide convincing evidence that proves when the non-conforming entity came into existence. This might include: business records, pictures, affidavits, etc. 

How do I know what Zoning District I am in?

If you call the Zoning Officer with your address, we can tell you the name of your zone district and generally what is permitted there. You can come to the Township Building and buy a Zoning Ordinance that contains a zoning map, or simply look at the zoning map. You can also view or download a zoning map from the Forms section on this page. Within the Zoning Ordinance there is a schedule of permitted uses and restrictions that goes with each type of zone that is depicted on the zoning map. Be careful, however, not to assume that this schedule has all of the answers to all of your zoning questions. Also, be sure to check your understanding with the Zoning Officer before you make any commitments to buy property or build upon it. Be aware there may be other sets of regulations that may apply to your property or project, especially if you plan to make changes. Making an appointment to ask your questions is always appreciated.

How do I make an appeal to the Zoning Hearing Board?

Zoning appeals are made by submitting an application, which you can download from the Forms section on this page. Appeals must be submitted about a month prior to the date of the scheduled hearing in order to legally advertise it. There is no guarantee that your appeal will be heard on the date of the next scheduled meeting of the Zoning Hearing Board because there is always the possibility of case overload, the unexpected absences of members, or bad weather. We’ll do our best, however. Submit all pertinent information along with your appeal application, and be advised you will not get back any exhibits you may present as supporting evidence for your case. Fees for an appeal are listed on the application form.

Where can I get a plot plan of a property?

The Township does have (using the Lehigh County Tax Parcel map) plot plans of almost all subdivided properties that show their shape, but no structures. The Township also has the engineered subdivision plans for many the Township’s subdivided properties. Contact the Community Development office with the street address or subdivision name of the property in question to request a copy of the plot plan. Should a copy up to 11″ x 17″ in size be desired, the cost will be $0.10 per copy. Should a larger copy be desired, more time and expense will be required. Please note that the Township may not be able to locate a particular plot plan due to age or loss.

Is my property in a flood plain?

The Township has recently updated the official Flood Insurance Rate Map. To determine whether a property is located within a flood plain, please contact the Community Development Department with the street address of the property in question. Copies of the section of the map panel containing the property in question can also be obtained form the Township at a cost of $0.10 per copy.

Does a homeowner need a permit for a shed?

Yes, a residential storage building needs a zoning permit, regardless of size. If the shed is greater than 150 square feet of interior space, in addition to zoning approval it will also require building department review of construction plans and approval with inspections.

Does a homeowner need a permit for driveway or sidewalk work?

Yes, you need a Public Works “Right-of-Way” permit for all driveways and sidewalks that would involve any Township right-of-way such as street right-of-way widths, sewer and water line easements, and such. If one is doing/re-doing a driveway or sidewalk on their private property and it doesn’t involve a Township right-of-way, a zoning permit is required if the work to be done costs in excess of $250. Securing a zoning permit does not exempt conditions of complying with maximum impervious surface requirements, or endorse violating other easements/right-of-ways, etc.

Furthermore, parking areas are different from driveways or sidewalks and are required to have a permit application reviewed.

If a homeowner wants to attach a shed to the rear of their home, would it meet the same accessory setbacks as a free-standing one?

An accessory building that is attached to the primary building shall be considered as an integral part of said primary building and not as an accessory building. It shall follow the primary use setback criteria accordingly.

Must I obtain a permit for even a small sign?

All signs in excess of six (6) square feet in area and all signs regardless of size located other than on the property to which they apply shall require the issuance of a zoning and/or building permit before erection, replacement, or repair. All signs must comply with all of the regulations of zoning section 12.39, irrespective of whether a permit is required. No sign, however, is ever permitted in the road right-of-way or in a clear-sight triangle unless proper permission is obtained from the Township.

What is a Clear Sight Triangle and how does it impact me?

At every intersection there shall be a triangular area (shown in the figure) deemed to be a clear sight triangle. The clear sight triangle shall be determined by the intersecting centerlines and a diagonal line connecting the two points, one at each centerline. The length of each centerline shall be determined by the classification of the streets involved. Please contact the Community Development Department for the distances specific to the intersection you have in mind.

There shall be no obstruction of vision between a height of two (2′) feet and ten (10′) feet above the centerline grade of the street within the clear sight triangle. Clear sight triangles shall be graded as necessary and kept clear of any buildings, plantings, or other obstructions. Chain link and split rail fences shall be allowed, provided no screening vegetation or material renders the fence opaque, and the intersection is signalized, or equipped with stop signs requiring all traffic to stop. Other structures shall be Conditional Uses and will be subject to the approval of the Board of Commissioners.

I’d like to do business out of my home. What do I need to know?

A no-impact home-based business is a business or commercial activity administered or conducted as an accessory use which is clearly secondary to the use as a residential dwelling and which involves no customer, client or patient traffic (except with regard to music teachers, art instructors, or academic tutors), whether vehicular or pedestrian, pickup, delivery or removal functions to or from the premises, in excess of those normally associated with residential use.

No-impact home-based businesses must satisfy the following requirements:

  • A Business Privilege License is to be secured from the Finance Department and the appropriate permits are to be secured from the Community Development Department.
  • No-impact home-based businesses shall be owned and controlled by a resident of the property on which the activity takes place. Termination of residence by the owner who establishes the no-impact home-based business shall automatically terminate the no-impact home-based business at that residence.
  • The business activity shall be compatible with the residential use of the property and surrounding residential uses.
  • The business shall employ no employees other than the family members residing in the dwelling, at the site.
  • (A)There shall be no display or sale of retail goods and no stockpiling or inventory of a substantial nature.
  • The minimum lot and yard requirements are as applicable for the principle use.
  • Only one vehicle, not to exceed one-ton payload capacity, may be utilized by the business.
  • There shall be no appearance of a business use, including, but not limited to, parking, signs or lights.
  • There shall be no tractor-trailer deliveries to the home-based business.
  • The business activity may not use any equipment or process that creates noise, vibration, glare, fumes, odors or electrical interference, including interference with radio or television reception, which is detectable in the neighborhood.
  • The business activity may not generate any solid waste or sewage discharge in volume or type, which is not normally associated with residential use in the neighborhood.
  • The business activity shall be conducted only within the dwelling and may not occupy more than 25% of the habitable floor area.
  • The business may not involve any illegal activity.