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Borough Council Meeting to Re-open Downtown Height Limit Discussions

The West Chester Borough Council has scheduled a special public meeting to discuss changing the height limit of new construction from the current overall limit of 75-feet (90-feet for residential) to a proposed 60-feet in the Height Overlay District of downtown.

  • When: Monday, January 30, 2012, 7:00pm
  • Where: Borough Council Chambers, 401 East Gay Street

Before 2008, the downtown height limit was 180-feet for new construction. After nearly two years of discussion among various Borough agencies and the public, a new height limit of 75-feet was established which allows up to 90-feet for residential uses.

Last September, Borough Council President Holly Brown asked Borough Council to re-open the discussion for a revised height limit. This appears to be driven by some Borough residents who object to the 75/90-foot height limit for downtown.

In May of 2006, during the original discussions for a revised height limit, the West Chester BID made a recommendation that the height limit be lowered to 135-feet from 180-feet. Over several months recommendations from other agencies and neighborhood groups came in at 120-feet, 90-feet, 75-feet, 60-feet, and 45-feet. When the Borough Council began to settle on the 75/90-foot limit in late 2007 (45-feet by-right; 75-feet with conditional use; plus an allowance up to 90-feet for residential), the BID did not object.

On January 12, a panel of 16 professionals, each deemed experts within their respective discipline, provided their findings for a Downtown Retail Study developed during a Technical Assistance Program (TAP). It was presented by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) of Philadelphia and sponsored by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) and the West Chester Business Improvement District (BID). The goal is to create a study that will recommend strategies to enhance the retail environment of downtown West Chester. More than 50 people were interviewed for the study including downtown stakeholders, residents, historic preservationists, and developers.

Among the points that were made was the need for upscale residential and retail redevelopment as part of the development of the First Block. It was recommended that this "should include a 'residential tower' on the corner of Gay & Church that would anchor the block. Remaining areas should be designed for upscale retail reflecting the three-story character of downtown."

The final report will be presented on April 13, 2012. Until then, the BID cannot comment on the findings.

Any change in zoning may effect the value of a downtown property. This is true even for property owners that have no intention of conducting new construction. Lowering the height will prevent certain new development options from taking place that could enhance the economic profile of the Borough thus limiting the ability to attract quality businesses to the downtown.

An example of a good development project that is dependant on a reasonable height provision can be found at the concept paper presented by Eli Kahn on December 5, 2011, in a public meeting. See it at Concept Presentation for the Mosteller Corner.


  • Attend the meeting and tell Borough Council how you feel on Monday, January 30, 2012, 7:00pm; Borough Council Chambers, 401 East Gay Street.
  • Send an e-mail to Malcolm Johnstone at Your e-mail will be shared with the entire Council.
  • Write a letter to: West Chester Borough Council | 401 E Gay St | West Chester PA 19380



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