Community groups fight to keep role in Philly zoning changes

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Philadelphia City Council has put on hold a move to streamline how developers gather community input for their projects.Philadelphia’s new zoning code requires developers seeking a variance to meet with Registered Community Organizations. The process of getting certified as an RCO isn’t easy, but Councilman Bill Greenlee says not every group deserves this status.

“Since the RCO program was put into the new zoning code, it has caused a lot of what we think sometimes is unnecessary action by some applicants,” Greenlee said. “We certainly want communities involved and as much involved as possible, but we also don’t want to overburden applicants because we want development to happen too. So we are trying to find some sort of middle ground.”

Council is considering loosening the law so the developers could schedule a meeting with one RCO, which would have to invite others, instead of holding multiple meetings.

Councilwoman Cindy Bass says she’s concerned this will allow developers to cherry pick community groups that favor their projects.

“Because I can you of a specific case of someone who did not come through our office, but implied that they did because they did receive a favorable outcome and it was not in line with what the community wanted,” Bass said.

Some are suggesting members of city council should get to select the community groups to be consulted instead of letting developers choose.

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