Zoning changes take effect in Philadelphia before all of City Council approves

Even though all council members have not voted on the matter, a Philadelphia City Council committee has passed changes to the brand new zoning code that, at least for now, will have to be treated as law.


Because of the so-called “pending ordinance doctrine” zoning code changes that pass a Philadelphia Council committee have to be treated as law. In this case, all of council won’t vote on the bill until next year. If the measure then falls short, it would no longer be enforced.

Councilman Brian O’Neill, R-10th, authored the changes limiting where group homes, autobody shops and gas stations can be opened. O’Neill said he didn’t want to wait for a planned review of the zoning code next summer.

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“Some fine-tuning can’t wait when you see it right in front of you,” O’Neill said. “You know it’s not going to be good for communities and you have to protect them now, not wait until some damage is done when it’s clear it will be done. And that’s what we were trying to focus on in this, and I think it’s reached a good level of compromise.”

The compromise allows people to open art studios and prepared food shops without a zoning variance.

Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, D-7th, said it’s a start.

“There are some uses that are banned everywhere else in the districts’ except commercial corridors that I have to look at,” she said. “So even though I don’t like them, I have to figure out how I accommodate them.”

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