Frequently Asked Questions: Community Development Office

General

1. Are event signs permitted on poles, trees or posts along a street or alley?
2. Does the Borough have information on where my property lines/boundaries are located?
3. If my neighbor and I are involved in a boundary dispute, should the Borough be advised?
4. Why is your office located on Main Street, away from the Borough Complex on Railroad Street?
5. How can I find out if my property is in a flood zone?
6. I am told your office maintains a file pertaining to every property in the Borough. What type of information might I find in the file for my property?

Permits/Construction

1. What types of work require permits and what is the process for pulling a permit?
2. Can you recommend a contractor?
3. What is the plot plan referenced on the zoning application and where do I find the information needed to prepare one?
4. Will the work I am planning affect my property’s assessed value?
5. At what hours of the day is it permissible for construction to occur?
6. What regulations does the Borough follow when reviewing plans and performing inspections?

Residential Rentals/Housing

NOTE:  A HOUSING LICENSE IS REQUIRED TO RENT/LET ANY HOUSE OR APARTMENT IN THE BOROUGH.  THIS SECTION OF THE FAQs IS BASED ON LEGAL RENTAL UNITS.

1. What should I do before signing a lease with a property owner?
2. What is the maximum number of persons allowed to live in a rental unit?
3. What can a tenant do if there is a maintenance issue in their rental unit?
4. Can students reside anywhere in town?
5. Are rental properties inspected?
6. Where can I park my car if on-site parking isn’t available where I live?
7. Is there a minimum temperature that must be maintained at a rental unit?
8. Is screening required on windows and doors during the summer?

Businesses

1. Would my business be permitted at a certain property?
2. Can I operate a business out of my home?
3. What must I do before opening a business in the Borough?
4. How large can my sign be?
5. Must a sign be removed when a business relocates or closes its doors?

Nuisance/Property Maintenance

1. My neighbor’s tree branches extend onto my property and are low. Can I trim them?
2. The neighboring hedge is planted on the property line and is impeding into my yard. Can I trim it?
3. Can I store my vehicle outside?
4. Can I park in the grass on my property?
5. What distance must be maintained between tree branches and sidewalks or streets?
6. How high can grass/weeds be?
7. I’m having a problem with a neighboring property. Where can I go to resolve the issue.
8. Is open burning permitted in the Borough?
9. Is a sofa permitted on a porch?


 

GENERAL

1. Are event signs permitted on poles, trees or posts along a street or alley?

No. This includes yard sale signs. The Borough reserves the right to remove any sign placed illegally.

2. Does the Borough have information on where my property lines/boundaries are located?

No.  The Borough does not maintain surveyor records nor is our staff qualified to perform surveys.  While some owners are fortunate to find their property monuments or pins still visibly in place; others have pins that are buried or nonexistent.  For buried pins, we suggest using a metal detector to locate them.  If nothing is found, we suggest you contact a surveyor if the property lines are needed. 

3. If my neighbor and I are involved in a boundary dispute, should the Borough be advised?

Boundary disputes must be settled among the affected property owners.  We suggest contacting a surveyor to have the properties surveyed.

4. Why is your office located on Main Street, away from the Borough Complex on Railroad Street?

With the introduction in 2006 of a joint venture between the Borough of Kutztown, Kutztown Community Partnership and Kutztown University Off-Campus Advisory Committee, the Community Development Office became the first satellite office for the Borough.  Although parking is sometimes at a premium, it has become apparent that this venture has been successful.  This union provides a valuable mixture of resources when dealing with business and student issues alike.  

5. How can I find out if my property is in a flood zone?

The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) provides the Borough with the latest flood maps.  Feel free to stop in our office to view these maps or visit their website at www.fema.gov. Your property’s flood elevation must be determined by a surveyor.

6. I am told your office maintains a file pertaining to every property in the Borough.  What type of information might I find in the file for my property?

Documentation might consist of correspondence to and from owners (current and prior) of the property and the Borough; construction applications, permits and drawings; inspection reports related to construction or housing; requests for locating underground utilities; appeals to zoning, codes or housing appeals boards; citations issued against the property; requests from third parties concerning the property; to name a few.  Please be aware that a property file is available for anyone to view by stopping in our office during normal business hours.  An appointment isn’t necessary; however, some files are complex and may take awhile for our staff to gather related information as well as for you to review.  Allow sufficient office time to perform such a review when planning your visit.

 

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PERMITS/CONSTRUCTION

1. What types of work require permits and what is the process for pulling a permit?

The necessity of a permit is based on what the job entails.  Please refer to the Permit Information links under the Permitting & Licensing Information page for permit requirements, their process, and fee schedules.  If you still have questions, feel free to contact the Community Development Office at 610-683-3290.

2. Can you recommend a contractor?

No, our office cannot show partiality. You can find a list of general contractors who have worked in the Borough posted on our webpage.  There you will also find lists of electricians and plumbers currently licensed with the Borough.  It is not necessary to choose a contractor from those lists.  Any contractor who meets Borough requirements can pull permits with us.  When choosing a contractor, don’t hesitate to ask them for references and proof of insurance; get comparison quotes as well.  Also, check with websites such as the Better Business Bureau and State Attorney General’s Office for further information. These websites can be found on the Community Development Office home page.  Once you’ve chosen a contractor, verify who will obtain the permits.  Be aware that a property owner can perform their own work providing no portion of the structure on which work is intended is rented out.

3. What is the plot plan referenced on the zoning application and where do I find the information needed to prepare one?

A plot plan is a diagram of your property, its dimensions, and the location of all structures (existing and proposed), including their dimensions.  Your rendering does not have to be drawn to scale.  You will find the dimensions of your property described in your deed.  Using a tape measure, determine the distance between the property lines and the closest structures to same, and the distances between each structure.  All of these measurements must be shown on the plot plan.  Be sure to mark what each structure is and whether the structure is existing or proposed.  For assistance, click on the Plot Plan Example link on this webpage.  Contact the Community Development Office if you need further assistance. 

4. Will the work I am planning affect my property’s assessed value?

Our office cannot answer this question since the Berks County Tax Assessment Office is responsible for property assessment in Berks County and levies taxes accordingly; not the Borough of Kutztown.  Assessments within the Borough of Kutztown are based on building permit reports provided by our office, as well as County staff observations.  County Assessors might question property owners and our office to inquire about the status of a particular project.

5. At what hours of the day is it permissible for construction to occur?

Construction may occur Monday through Saturday from ½ hour after sunrise to ½ hour before sunset, except for holidays.  Special permission must be obtained from our office for Sundays, holidays or nights.

6. What regulations does the Borough follow when reviewing plans and performing inspections?

Plan reviews and inspections are based on the PA Uniform Construction Code, the International Code Council 2009 Codes, and the Borough Code. The Borough Code is located on the Borough’s website. The ICC Codes can be viewed by the public at the kiosk located by our customer counter. The book version is also available for public viewing upon request.  We do not stock these items to sell.

 

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RESIDENTIAL RENTALS/HOUSING

NOTE:  A HOUSING LICENSE IS REQUIRED TO RENT/LET ANY HOUSE OR APARTMENT IN THE BOROUGH.  THIS SECTION OF THE FAQs IS BASED ON LEGAL RENTAL UNITS.

1. What should I do before signing a lease with a property owner?

Do your research! Check with our office to verify that the unit is legally licensed. Visit the property and tour the unit you are interested in. If possible, have your parent or guardian make the trip with you. Read through the lease carefully so there are no surprises in the future. Make sure you understand which utilities are your responsibility. Before signing the lease, contact an attorney with any questions you might have regarding the contents of it. Contact the Community Development Office at 610-683-3290 if you have questions concerning possible maintenance issues in the unit. Be aware that while all legally licensed units must meet standard/minimum requirements, some units far exceed those requirements.

2. What is the maximum number of persons allowed to live in a rental unit?

Since the amount is based on bedroom size and off-street parking at the property, it varies per property. To check the legal occupancy of a rental unit, visit the Rental Properties link or call the Community Development Office.

3. What can a tenant do if there is a maintenance issue in their rental unit?

First contact your landlord. If the problem has been reported to your landlord and the issue remains unresolved, contact the Community Development Office.

4. Can students reside anywhere in town?

Generally, yes; however, the maximum amount depends on the property, and could be as low as one person. This information can be found by checking the Rental Properties link or call the Community Development Office. For any property not listed, contact the Community Development Office.  
 

5. Are rental properties inspected?

Yes. Each licensed rental unit in the Borough is inspected every three years by the Borough. All properties must meet the provisions of the International Property Maintenance Code and local amendments.

6. Where can I park my car if on-site parking isn’t available where I live?

Clearly, parking is at a premium in Kutztown. If you’re a student at KU and leaving your car at home isn’t an option, some streets allow for temporary parking; check the signage first. Another suggestion is to use the Borough-owned parking lots; they are short term, timed lots. The rules for each lot are clearly posted. Keep in mind that the Borough issues tickets for cars parked illegally.

7. Is there a minimum temperature that must be maintained in a rental unit?

Yes.  From October 1st to April 30th, the minimum air temperature must be at least 68°F.

8. Is screening required on windows and doors during the summer?

Window and door screens are required from May 1st through October 15th.

 

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BUSINESSES

1. Would my business be permitted at a certain property?

We suggest you check with our office before signing a lease to ensure that the use you are proposing meets the Borough’s zoning regulations.The Borough is separated into different zoning districts, which restrict where commercial, residential and industrial uses can occur.  For this reason, our office must grant zoning approval for your business. If you choose to enter into a lease agreement before gaining our approval, we suggest adding a stipulation to the lease that it can be voided if the use is denied.  Contact the Community Development Office at 610-683-3290 for further information.

2. Can I operate a business out of my home?

This depends on what type of business you are planning and where you live.  Contact the Community Development Office for more information.

3. What must I do before opening a business in the Borough?

Gain approval from our office for its use, signage and any renovations you are planning.  Permits must be issued before any work begins. 

4. How large can my sign be?

This depends on where you are proposing to open your business and the type of signage you desire.  We suggest applying for signage simultaneously with the zoning application.  Doing so reduces the cost of permit fees.

5. Must a sign be removed when a business relocates or closes its doors?

Although there is no Borough regulation that mandates the removal of signage, we strongly suggest you do so.

 

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NUISANCE/PROPERTY MAINTENANCE

1. My neighbor’s tree branches extend onto my property and are low.  Can I trim them?

Technically, any plant/tree/shrub that is planted on your neighbor’s property that crosses the invisible vertical line formed at the ground by the property boundary (onto your property) can be trimmed to that invisible line by you.  However, we urge you to discuss this with the adjoining property owner before doing so.  Before trimming, be certain there are no utility wires in the area of the tree.  

2. The neighbor’s hedge is planted on the property line and is impeding into my yard.  Can I trim it?

 The hedge can be trimmed by you if the part you are trimming is over the property line.  However, we urge you to discuss this with the adjoining property owner before doing so.

3. Can I store my vehicle outside?

All vehicles, trailers and boats having the applicable current registration and license tags affixed to them can be parked on a stoned/paved area outside on private property. Others with expired registrations and/or license tags must be stored inside an enclosed structure.

4. Can I park in the grass on my property?

To avoid mud from being drug onto a street/alley, vehicles should only be parked on a hard surface, such as stone or macadam.

5. What distance must be maintained between tree branches and sidewalks or streets?

Branches must be a minimum of 8’ above a sidewalk, and 14’ above a street.  If a tree is on private property, the owner is responsible for its maintenance.  Be certain there are no utility wires in the area of the tree prior to removing limbs.  Trimming trees located in the sidewalk area may be the responsibility of the Borough.  Questions regarding those trees should be addressed to the Public Works Office by calling 610-683-3202.

6. How high can grass/weeds be?

Grass should be maintained at a maximum height of 6”.  However, extenuating circumstances (such as rainy weather) are taken into consideration by our office before notifying property owners of a violation.

7. I’m having a problem with a neighboring property.  Where can I go to resolve the issue?

Our office can be contacted if there is a quality of life issue such as high grass/weeds, dog feces, tree/shrubbery obstructions at intersections, and debris.  We urge people to attempt to resolve the issue at hand by discussing it with their neighbor before contacting us; however, we are here if a mutual agreement cannot be reached.

8. Is open burning permitted in the Borough?

No.  Open fires or bonfires are not permitted without special approval being granted by Borough Council.  We do allow recreational burning in contained structures such as chimeneas or mesh-lidded containers placed a minimum of 20’ from structures and erected in according to the manufacturer’s specifications.  They cannot be left unattended while in use.

9. Is a sofa permitted on a porch?

No.  All upholstered furniture must be used or stored indoors.  Only furniture having a surface designed for outdoor use can be used outside.

 

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