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Green roofs may allow developers to add units

The Rules Committee of the Philadelphia City Council recently approved a measure that would allow developers to construct more residential units in multi-unit residential buildings than are presently allowed by the zoning code if a building has a qualifying "green roof." The bill was introduced last month to encourage residential and commercial real estate developers to provide energy efficient green roofs by permitting an increase in density.

A green roof is a "rooftop system that supports living vegetation and helps manage storm water runoff." If passed, the ordinance would affect residential density in RM-1 districts (low-density multifamily residential), and CMX-2 and CMX-2.5 districts, both of which govern neighborhood commercial corridors. If a developer installs a green roof covering at least 60 percent of a structure's roof, the number of apartments in the structure could be increased by as much as 35 percent. For example, a developer can construct up to 20 apartments on a 10,000 square foot parcel in an RM-1 zone. The proposed ordinance, if passed, would allow construction of an additional seven units if the developer provides a green roof. The sponsor of this legislation also sponsored a bill that would provide an additional incentive for green roofs by allowing developers to deduct half the cost from their business income in calculating liability under the city's business income and receipts tax.

The ordinance is supported by the City Water Department and the Philadelphia Building Industry Association. The Water Department's representative testified that more green roofs will mean cheaper green roofs as developers and contractors increase the efficiency of installing such features. The Building Industry Association supports the proposal because of the density bonuses attached to green roofs.

Anyone wondering about the feasibility of constructing a green roof and taking advantage of the density bonus may wish to speak to an experienced real estate attorney. A knowledgeable real estate lawyer can provide advice on the effective date of the ordinance and on the procedures necessary to qualify for the increase in density.

Source: Philly.com, "Council committee approves density bonuses for green roofs," Jared Brey, Nov. 17, 2015

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