Commissions warn of shutdown

Sept. 10

Citizens Budget Workshops

By Thomas J. Walsh
For PlanPhilly

In the ongoing budgetary showdown between Philadelphia City Hall and lawmakers in Harrisburg, details of what the city’s possible doomsday scenario will look like are starting to emerge.

“All City Planning Commission activity will cease, including subdivision, site plan, and environmental reviews; zoning remapping; redevelopment actions mandated by State Law; comprehensive and neighborhood planning; design review for building façades, above-ground parking garages, and Neighborhood Conservation Districts; and the other mapping and public information functions performed by the Commission.”

That was the word Alan Greenberger, acting deputy mayor for Planning & Economic Development and the Philadelphia City Planning Commission’s executive director, issued in a letter (see below) emailed late Thursday afternoon.

The letter was similar to others issued by city agencies, stating, “The City of Philadelphia no longer has the funds to provide a full range of critical services, severely impacting our residents, businesses, and visitors.”

“Without this State authorization to resolve our funding crisis, the City will be forced to discontinue operations and services at the Philadelphia City Planning Commission beginning Friday, October 2nd.”

Earlier Thursday, word came from the Philadelphia Historical Commission, signed by Executive Director Jonathan Farnham and Greenberger. “Even as we remain hopeful that the State Legislature will act, we wanted to notify you of this very possible outcome so that you can plan accordingly. Please understand that only immediate action by the State would prevent some, if not full, disruption of services.”

For the Historical Commission, that includes all building permit application reviews and historic designation services.

Fairmount Park services will also “cease, or be extremely limited,” wrote Executive Director Mark Focht, in his letter. Trash pick-up, landscaping, fountain operation, trail and ball field maintenance, facility and janitorial service, event and site permitting will all be halted, among others. Indoor facilities, including the Horticulture Center itself and all public restrooms, would shutter. Picnic areas would remain open but not maintained.

At the city’s public libraries, a sign posted on doorways was perhaps a bit alarming to regular users:

“Effective close of business
Friday October 2, 2009
All Branches, Regionals
and the Parkway Central Library

Will cease operations.”

Beneath, in smaller lettering, was this: “Come inside for additional information.”

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