CDAG will spend summer pushing for changes to the interim Central Delaware Zoning Overlay

The Central Delaware Advocacy Group gave itself a summer assignment Thursday: Lobby for amendments to the new Central Delaware Overlay that will add a waterfront setback requirement, prohibit billboards, and strengthen requirements around public access to the water and street grid extension.

CDAG Chairman Matt Ruben noted that the “clean-up” amendments to the new zoning code passed out of city council’s Rules Committee Wednesday will have significant impact on the waterfront if Council passes the bill, which is expected.

The good news, Ruben said, is that First District Councilman Mark Squilla added the interim Central Delaware Overlay language into the new zoning code, preventing a gap in overlay coverage.

Squilla introduced the new overlay, but it will not make it to a hearing before city council recesses for summer. It will be taken up again in the fall, and Ruben said this gives CDAG more opportunity to advocate for changes.

Then came what Ruben saw as some bad news, indeed: One of the clean-up amendments makes a big change to a section of the new code requiring a 50-foot development setback on rivers and streams. The Development Workshop pushed against it, saying that it would prevent some industries from operating normally.

According to Deputy Mayor for Commerce and Planning Commission Chairman Alan Greenberger, that would not happen – the intent was not to thwart industry. This was a matter of sound environmental policy, he said.

Rules didn’t buy that, though. The amendment says the setback only applies to waterways that are drinking water sources.

When the new overlay legislation was drafted, it contained no waterfront setback, because the setback was in the new zoning code, and a goal is to keep the city’s new zoning law from getting as complex and redundant as the zoning it replaced was.

With the amendment, Ruben said, the setback is now needed for the Central Delaware Waterfront Overlay, which covers land between the river and I-95, from Oregon to Allegheny avenues.

“What’s ironic is that now, as far as I know, the Central Delaware is the only waterway with a setback,” he said. That’s because the interim overlay requires a 100-foot setback.

Ruben said it seems to him that overlays will now be needed to create setbacks on any city waterway.

“We want to make sure there is a setback, and make sure waterfront access streets don’t get diluted,” Ruben told the group.

The board decided to begin this work immediately, and to ask Squilla to meet with them about the overlay in July, and will also ask city planners to meet with them again.

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